Take a step closer to look at the smaller picture; the small things in life can be as beautiful as the large. We talk to Elsbeth Nadler about macro photography...
While the world around us is pretty vast, it’s often easy to forget about the smaller things in life: a delicate single flower you didn’t notice growing through a crack in the pavement, the soft down of a dandelion seed, and the grains of pollen stuck to a bee’s legs. It’s all there, ready to be noticed, if you just look for it… And point your smartphone camera in the right direction.
We’ve caught up with nature lover and Instagram macro photographer, Elsbeth Nadler, to find out how she takes breath-taking close-up shots that regularly delight her 14.9k followers.
Elsbeth lives in picturesque Switzerland, which you may think gives her an advantage when taking beautiful macro shots, but, as you can see by her photos, the subjects in her photographs can be found in most environments all around the world:
“My favourite subjects are the flowers, plants, and insects that I find around me,” says Elsbeth. “I often walk through nature, looking for special objects; with time, you get an eye for it.”
The tools of the macro trade
Amazingly, Elsbeth doesn’t use a powerful DSLR camera, “I take all my pictures with my iPhone 6 Plus”, she explains. “It has a great camera for macros.”
But that’s not to say that Elsbeth doesn’t use any additional hardware for her close-ups; in fact, she relies on a couple of go-to tools.
“For all my close-ups, I use a macro lens from olloclip that is specifically designed for iPhones. I tried out different macro lenses of varying zoom, but the one I use the most is the 7x zoom. 14x and 21x zooms are too strong,” explains Elsbeth. “I also have a special case with a finger grip on the back, so I can keep my phone steady while I take the shot.”
If you browse through Elsbeth’s Instagram, you can see it’s chock-full of gorgeous close-ups of the tiny world around her, so it’s no wonder that when asked which was her favourite she listed half a dozen. And we’d agree; with so many great macro shots, it’s a tough call.
“My favourite pictures are those where I played with the light, and sometimes with water droplets. It’s a challenge for me to create pictures with natural objects that you don’t see every day. It’s my goal to create a ‘wow’ effect for my Instagram followers. For me, it’s a kind of art,” she explains.
But what makes an amazing close-up photograph, according to Elsbeth?
“It’s difficult to say, because everyone has their personal preference, but for me I prefer macros with sharp lines. I don’t like it when only part of it is sharp, and the rest is blurred. But I know other people love that effect. For me, it’s also important that the picture has a ‘calm’ background,” she adds, “otherwise the object doesn’t really come ‘into its own’ as the picture is too busy.”
Like what you see and want to give it a go? Of course you do! Thankfully, Elsbeth’s got some tips…
A masterclass in macro photography
“While I don’t consider myself an expert, I can explain how I take all of my pictures. I began taking photographs three years ago, and I never had a real camera. I always only used my iPhone. So you don’t need expensive equipment, only passion. You have to love what you do and you have to train your eyes to see the little beauties around you. Keep your eyes open – even a weed can be pretty.”
Don’t believe a weed can be pretty? Check out this dandelion:
Those wispy hairs, those cylindrical ridged seeds, and the crisp focus. Perfect! As for practical shooting tips, Elsbeth says it’s important not to be afraid to interact with your subject to steady it, or to see it slightly differently:
“If possible, hold the object in one hand and take the photo with the other” she says. “I often go around the object in circles, taking different shots of the object and seeing how it looks under different light conditions. That also helps to find the right angle for your photo – my favourite angle is from top left to bottom right, but find what works for you.
“And don’t be afraid to take 50 photos if you need to! That’ll give you more options.”
Naturally, once Elsbeth has taken her close-up, she goes through a routine editing process to ensure that it looks as beautiful as possible…
Edit to impress
Forget Photoshop. Elsbeth doesn’t have a huge arsenal of pro-level photo editing software at her disposal, but does use a couple of key apps that suit her style of photography down to the ground.
For basic cutting, cropping, and turning the picture to the right angle, Elsbeth recommends the default iPhone picture app, before importing her chosen shots into an app called Facetune. But don’t let the name fool you. Facetune has a raft of tools that help edit the background and emphasize the depth of field, making the image much more visually striking.
And of course, because all of her photos are uploaded to Instagram – and only Instagram – Elsbeth makes any final touches with the tools available therein… But insists that she never uses a filter.
So there you have it! Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to mastering #macrophotography.
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