Best settings for macro photography

Choosing the best settings for macro photography can be difficult. After all, you’re in the wild and now want to capture amazing pictures, not fiddle with the camera.

Fortunately, you can use some simple guidelines to choose the perfect macro settings every time. I’ll share them with you in this article. By becoming familiar with these settings, your macro photography will advance by leaps and bounds.

A macro shot of flowers

1. Manual focus

Manual focus is one of the most important tools in the macro photographer’s toolkit. When working at high magnification, you can’t rely on the lens’s autofocus function for a number of reasons.

First, manual focus is necessary for creative macro photography. In macro photography, especially in more abstract macro photography, you have to let the focus do its work. Only with the manual focus can you achieve the accuracy you need.

Second, the autofocus ability of macro lenses is often poor, especially at high magnification. Sitting and waiting as the camera pans back and forth becomes frustrating.

2. Use Aperture Priority as your preferred camera mode

Aperture Priority mode allows you to set the lens aperture. Your camera will do the rest of the work, ensuring good exposure.

Aperture is the size of the aperture in a lens. A wide aperture lets in a lot of light and also blurs the background. A narrow aperture lets in less light but makes the background clear.

Aperture priority is a good camera mode for macro photography. This is because the aperture is the most important thing to consider. However, if your shutter speed fluctuates slightly, that’s fine. After all, your aperture gives you creative control over background blur.

A macro shot of flowers

Now, if you want a soft-focus macro photo, you can use the aperture priority mode and lower the aperture to F/2.8 or F/3.2.

If you want your subject to be sharp throughout the photo, use the aperture priority mode to set the aperture to F/8 or higher. That’s why aperture priority is so valuable. It allows you to choose the overall appearance of the photo.

Now, I recommend that you always use an aperture first, unless you’re shooting a moving object or you’re shooting in low light.

3. Live view

Live view is useful in macro photography for several reasons.

First, a live view allows you to check your focus. As mentioned above, determining the desired focus is critical in macro photography. With a live view, you can enlarge the LCD screen to ensure that you are not in front or back focus.

In addition, on some camera bodies, the real-time display allows you to reduce camera shake and keep images sharp.

For the relevant camera body, the mirror in the camera flips immediately when the live view is activated. Typically, this mirror flip happens when you press the shutter release button, causing the camera to vibrate, which reduces sharpness.

Honeybees photographed with a macro lens

But for living view, this pre-flip means that when you finally press the shutter, there’s no extra vibration.

4. Continuous shooting mode

If you always use a tripod for macro shots, ignore this tip. But for those who don’t like the weight or reduced flexibility that comes with a tripod, continuous shooting mode can be a great tool.

What is continuous shooting mode? This is the camera setting that allows quick shots when you hold down the shutter release button. It ranges from a few frames per second to more than 10 (depending on your camera model).

While primarily used by wildlife, sports, and bird photographers to capture the split-second action of the scene, macro photographers can also use continuous shooting mode to ensure maximum focus accuracy.

Macro photography of insects

5. Two-second selfies

The final setting useful to macro photographers is the two-second selfie. When shooting in low light with a large depth of field, you may struggle to get a clear image. Part of the problem may be a camera shake caused by pressing the shutter release button. Your finger shakes the camera as you press the button.

The solution is to take a two-second selfie. This is the setting that most DSLR cameras offer, allowing you to get maximum sharpness, which can be the difference between an available image and a blurry one.

6. Increase ISO only in low light

ISO refers to the sensitivity of your camera to light. That is, the higher your ISO, the brighter your photos will be (all things being equal).

Because each increase in ISO adds more “noise” to your photos, adding ISO is generally only done in low light. The better your camera is, the better it will perform at a higher ISO.

Macro lens of ants

7. Conclusion

Choosing the best macro settings can seem difficult. But you don’t have to worry. Because you can use simple guidelines to choose the perfect macro settings.

After reading this guide, hopefully, you will start to feel more confident and competent when it comes to macro photography.


What is the macro setting on a camera?

The Macro mode is a setting on your camera that you can use to take close-up pictures of small objects such as insects or flowers.

Is macro photography hard?

Macro photography is a difficult genre — you’re pushing up against the physical limits of depth of field, diffraction, and motion blur. Naturally, focusing on macro photography isn’t an easy task, but it’s a crucial one.

What is the best ISO for macro photography?

It’s not unusual to use ISOs in the range of 800 to 3200 for macro photography. I recommend using Auto ISO here. Set your minimum shutter speed to 1/320 second and your ISO to 100.

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