Macro photography has the power to transport viewers into unimaginable worlds that are often right beneath our noses. What may seem dull to the naked eye, often comes to life when viewed through a macro lens. With an endless sea of subjects and ever-changing macro scenes to explore around the world, there’s no shortage of inspiration when it comes to adventuring into the macro universe.

My name is Matthew Cicanese (sick-uh-neez) and I’m a professional documentary artist and National Geographic Explorer who specializes in environmental macro photography. When I’m not working on finding my next story, I’m belly deep on forest floors around the world – shooting away!

Today I’d like to share 5 tips from my arsenal for elevating your macro photography!

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1. Fill the frame & get eye-level

To me, this is what can make or break many macro images. When you fill the frame you break a barrier that gives the viewer access into your subject’s world. By getting eye-level, a sense of intimacy is created that is much stronger in many cases than when shot from above.

2. Look for textures & patterns

Macro photography doesn’t always have to show the whole picture. Often times, I really enjoy finding textures and fragments of a larger scene to focus-in on. These tiny insect eggs the size of this period (.) growing on the underside of a leaf made for a great abstract photograph, with a multitude of shapes, colors, and textures.

3. Think like an ant (get low)

If you think like an ant while you’re shooting macro, you’re bound to get your clothes and camera pretty dirty – but the dirt is worth it. By “thinking like an ant” and getting REALLY low in comparison to your subject, you can take a small patch of mushrooms each the size of a U.S. quarter and make them feel like sky-scrapers rising from the forest floor!

4. Wait for the right light

Natural light at the right time of the day can work wonders for environmental macro photography. By shooting during the later part of the day (aka – the “golden hour”) I was able to create lens flare to emphasize the way the light was pouring through the forest canopy.

5. Learn to shoot in manual mode

Becoming skilled in manual mode will allow you to really take your macro photography to the next level. By shooting this scene in manual with a single off-camera flash, I was able to back light this mushroom to single it out on the busy forest floor, while emphasizing its characteristic gills.