Using a Macro Lens to Explore Your Yard and Garden

You Don't Always Have to Leave Your Home to Get Unique Photos

Last Updated: June 17th, 2015

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One of the big things photography teachers say, and I do believe it, is that if you want to take interesting photos, you need to go to interesting places. It’s to keep you from being lazy and just taking the same old boring photos in your home and get you to explore something new (new challenge – take a boring photo in an interesting location?). The fundamental point is to get you away from taking average snapshots with no effort, ones anyone can take without trying, and instead push yourself to try new angles, new perspectives. However, you can still put the effort into exploring the area close to your home and find interesting photos.

Macro of a Weed/Dandelion - Sigma 150mm

I hate these damn weeds. Spent so much time trying to rid my yard of them without chemicals. Well, I thought that they still made for a cool macro shot. I can’t remember if I removed it after, but I should have…

My Sigma 150mm Macro Lens

I love my macro lens since it allows me to take that sense of exciting exploration, but allows me to try it at home when I just don’t have the time to travel. It gives me the freedom to have my little girl around watching me, excitedly seeing the results, and almost cheering me on… all within potty range! (Hey, real problem as a parent when you’re on the road.) Personally, I have a an older version of this Sigma 150mm Macro Lens for my Nikon. While there are plenty of other options out there, I went for the longer length (over 100mm) in case I needed to put some distances between myself and a skittish subject. I don’t think mine is the top rated out there, but it gets the job done for what I want and I recommend it. Good for a long portrait lens too.

Be Aware of Your Background

Just like with any photography, you need to not only find your subject to photograph, but once you find it, you need to be aware of your background. If you’re taking a photo of a flower, you can have it against the background of the other flowers almost like a comparison to similar colors (like my own flower photo here), or you can isolate the subject by moving and getting a different solid color behind it. like my cricket/basil leaf below.

Macro of a Purple Flower - Sigma 150mm

Sometimes the subject in focus looks even better when it is against similar colors. Your eye looks for the detail, so while you could put your subject against contrasting colors, don’t forget this option.

The key is that you make this an active decision and look around before you simply press the shutter. This is where you can explore all the angles from above, below, moving around, to see how you can frame your subject against a better background choice. Move those feet!

Depth of Field Can and Will Surprise You

Narrow depth of field is great for portraits and isolating subjects. It also is great to make your background much more blurry (ah, creamy bokeh). If you’re still starting out and are just getting the hang of depth of field, you know that the more open your lens is (lower aperture, like f/2.8), the less is in focus. Well, the depth of field is even more narrow with macro lenses due to the magnification. With a portrait of a person, you think, “oh nice, f/5.6, I should get the whole person’s face in focus.” With a bug, you may only get like the eye of the tiny guy at that aperture setting. You’ll be shooting at larger f stops to get more in focus, meaning less light getting in, so be prepared.

Macro of a Cricket on a Basil Leaf on My Deck - Sigma 150mm

This cricket would move a little here and there, but the hardest thing to deal with was any wind would move the leaf. I tried to hold the plant while shooting and shield the sun for this shot. I knew my house would give a nice blurred tan color as a background.

Can you shoot a lower aperture? Yep, I still shoot like that if I just want an eye in focus, but just be aware of what the magnification does to DOF. Oh, and while you may love your auto-focus, you seriously are better off focusing manually. This narrow depth of field pretty much requires it.

At Least the Props Can Be Smaller

When you shield or reflect light for people and larger subjects, the props you use can be quite large. Luckily, you can use a piece of paper or other smaller objects at this scale and is much easier to operate. On my bug photo, I was able to just use my left hand to block the sun while my right was steady on my deck ledge. Experiment with other objects, especially as a background. Even the smallest things can lead to more interesting bokeh (blurriness) behind your subject.

Macro Shot of Turtle in My Yard - Sigma 150mm

Once he was comfy, he would acknowledge me, and then turn slowly to put his butt in my face, occasionally peeking back at me to make sure I saw him…

Have Patience, but Have Fun Too!

Nature won’t listen to you. The wind won’t stop blowing and shaking leaves. Bugs and animals really couldn’t care less about you, and will probably avoid you. Sometimes by just laying there and being patient, you can get a shot you want. This little turtle of course retreated when I first approached. I waited like 10 minutes and then he started moving a little, showing his head, and eventually getting more of the shot I wanted. I go in with a flexible plan since getting an exact shot in my head is tough. After a while, he basically ignored me and moved around. I’d move, he’d hide a little; rinse and repeat. 10 minutes is honestly not a long time, so you may need to really be patient. Of course, sometimes a moment passes so quickly, you need to react. Just be ready and practice focusing quickly. And have fun! I mean, you’re hanging out in nature, what’s nicer than that? Good luck!


Buying the Lens

If this has helped you consider the lens, I ask to please use my referral links below to do so to help me continue to write these reviews. Greentoe is a kind of Priceline-for-Electronics site that I’ve used and spoke with. You can bid for better deals on lenses. Adorama is a known photography dealer that I trust as well. i wouldn’t recommend places I don’t use myself!

  • Via Greentoe: Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro Lens for (Nikon | Canon | Sony) Cameras
  • Via Adorama: Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro Lens for (Nikon | Canon | Sigma | Sony) Cameras
  • Other Macro Lenses via Adorama: See Selection
  • Looking to rent first before committing? I recommend BorrowLenses
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