Macro photography is a tricky topic and we’ll deal with it in another post as well. The subject of this post is the background. Take this photo by Holger Magnussen, for example, the flowers have a good contrast to the background and the background doesn’t distract from the subject. Remember, the background in any photo is as important as the subject itself. A busy background can lead the eye away from the subject and is a big distraction.

The great contrast between the pink flower and the black background makes this photo POP.

Here’s an example of of a photo with a busy background

Example of a Photo with a Busy Background. The 2 colors in the background (blue and green) distract the viewer and draw attention away from the subject.

A similar photo with a much cleaner background

A single colored background distracts less from the flower and bees.

Here are some tips on how to make the background cleaner

Hang a cloth behind the subject

While photographing flowers, I often place my camera on a tripod and hold a black cloth or even my camera bag behind the flower. This helps me get a nice black background and makes the subject pop. You could also rig up a home made stand to hold up an old T-shirt or any cloth of your choice.

 

Wild Flowers shot with a black camera bag held up behind them. The black background brings the contrast to the white flowers making the photo pop

Choose your background

You do have options in choosing your background in a macro shot. Don’t get stuck as one spot and one angle. Try moving around a little to find the background of the right color and at the right distance. If you want a green background, move the camera to an angle where there’s a leaf behind your subject. You can also increase the amount of blur that the background has by moving the camera to an angle from where the background is farther away from the subject.

Use a lower depth of field

Open up the aperture to reduce the depth of field. A lower depth of field means less busy backgrounds, but it also means less sharp subjects, so whenever possible try and follow options 1 and 2 instead.

Crop the photo to remove the background

Even if you can’t get a clean background in the original shot, you can always do some post processing. Here’s an example of a crop to remove the distracting background. Notice how it brings attention to the flower and bee. It was further enhanced using some airbrushing in Gimp/Photoshop

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