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Macro Photography: Insects and Plant Life

Lesson 4 of 15

What Makes a Good Macro Photo

Chris McGinnis

Macro Photography: Insects and Plant Life

Chris McGinnis

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Lesson Info

4. What Makes a Good Macro Photo

Lesson Info

What Makes a Good Macro Photo

What makes a good macro photo? Well, good can be pretty subjective, good is different to everyone. I would say, there's a few things that kind of universally appeal to people when it comes to macro photography. Things like altering a sense of scale taking the really, really tiny things and presenting them really large. Filling the frame with something that's basically unseeable to the naked eye. Altering your perspective so getting really low getting really high coming top down on your subject. Showing things in a way that people normally don't look at things. Also, nailing your focus. So, I photograph a lot of insects, if I miss the compound eye, the shot is essentially ruined. Showing the part of your subject that has the most detail, showing that in focus, is critical to a good macro photo. Also nice, soft light, that light can come from different light sources it can be the sun, it can be continuous light, it can be a flash. Regardless of what light source you're using, you want to...

make sure that light is diffused and soft. Diffusion can come in many forms, it can be from the clouds overheard on an overcast day, it can be from a soft box diffuser mounted on your flash on your camera or it can be from a handheld diffuser that you or an assistant is using. Also, keep in mind, color keep in mind background all of these things work together to make an interesting, pleasing composition for your macro photo. As you begin shooting macro remember, closer isn't always better. It's really easy to get sucked into the idea that you need to be really close. 1x, 2x, 5x magnification to make a great macro photo and that's not always the case. Some photos that maybe aren't technically macro but somewhat fall into the macro category aren't even at 1:1 magnification. Good macro photos can be judged just like any photos. Anything that looks nice to people that they find interesting or appealing, can be defined as good. Depending on what you're trying to present context can work in your favor or against you. If you want to show something really abstract you want to remove all context from your composition. You want to just show the details. That's when macro photography turns into an abstract art form. If you want to show your subject in it's natural environment you need a little bit of context. If you're showing an insect crawling on a tree branch or a stick, show a little bit of that stick, show a little bit of that leaf in the corner of the frame. Like any type of photography macro photography is a journey and that journey is filled with experimentation. As you move along in your journey with macro photography don't be afraid to try new things, try new gear, try new diffusers, make your own, ask questions. As you try new things, you'll learn more. And hopefully, along the way you improve and you carve out a style all your own. When I bought my first camera I challenged myself to shoot and share on Instagram at least one photo every day. At that time, I wasn't set out to shoot macro I was shooting anything, I was shooting things in my daily life and over time, I realized that I really like the details and I got more interested in macro photography. And that experience of learning my camera learning the settings, learning what I liked led me to this macro journey. As I shot macro, I practiced with the things I've already mentioned, inanimate things, things on my coffee table and then slowly moved out to the wild and learned how to interact with subjects in nature. I encourage you to do the same thing. Find what you like, practice. Don't be afraid to take a lot of shots or try different settings. This is the age of digital photography the shots are free, you can take shots delete shots and shoot some more. So, keep shooting, keep practicing and I can't wait to see what you make.

Class Description


  • Understand Macro Photography and how to begin shooting it
  • Know what gear to bring and how to set up your camera
  • Find and approach your subjects, even the crawling/flying ones
  • Fast post-processing techniques to keep you on the move


Take a closer look in this beginner’s guide to macro photography and insect photography. Chris McGinnis, will dive into the world of macro photography from understanding what it is to how to shoot it. He’ll explain how to search and capture a smaller world with just the use of your camera. He’ll dive into the behaviors of insects and their relationships to plant life so that you can capture amazing images from your backyard to national parks.


  • Macro Photographers
  • Beginners
  • Hikers


Adobe Lightroom CC 2019




Chris McGinnis is a graphic designer, photographer, and macro photography enthusiast based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He obtained his degree in graphic design from Moravian College and, after a stint in the publishing world, joined the creative department at Olympus America. Chris currently works as the Senior Manager of Creative Services and oversees all phases of Olympus’ graphic design, photography, and video production. When he purchased an OM-D E-M10 in 2014, Chris vowed to shoot (and share) at least one photo each day for an entire year. After 365 days shooting, sharing, and learning, he found himself more and more interested in the details. He bought a macro lens and has never looked back. As Chris ventured deeper into the world of macro, he soon shifted his efforts toward featuring the beauty, design, and intricacy of arthropods which often go unnoticed.


Andrew Lamberson

I found the class both very informative and very motivational to get started in Macro photography. It is an entry-level class but it explains what you really need to know to be successful. I especially found the information on the value of using flash and how to modify your flash for it to be more effective especially helpful. I am an experienced wildlife photographer and have done some "Macro" with my telephoto lens, but this class motivated me to purchase a dedicated lens. I am really looking forward to spring and finding some good bugs!

Chris Baudec

Great presentation and great motivation in the post processing. I do wish that the would have been made available. After all, this is a Olympus sponsored event, and Oly settings are always welcomed.... and a tad difficult on the learning curve.

Gary Hook

Chris does a commendable job of explaining his techniques, reasons and potential pitfalls to avoid. Very thorough and much more enthusiastic about little bugs than I will ever be :-) but at the end one has a good concept on how to approach the task at hand. Nice closing with his practical examples of 'post' shoot production. One suggestion for inclusion would be some operating tips/techniques with a tripod/macro rail slider. His Olympus is way smaller/lighter than my Canon 5D so my hand holding will be at a minimum. Well done. Thank you