Extreme Macro Backgrounds

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated May 13, 2017

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Backgrounds are a vital part of the extreme macro image, in the field and especially in the studio. Paying attention to the background is just as important as paying attention to the subject and it is this one of the things that to me differentiates the truly excellent extreme macro shot from the mundane.

Macro Backgrounds

Extreme macro background testing. The thing is, there aren't really any rules as to what makes a great extreme macro background, and it's very much an individual judgement call. So spend the time studying what works. Analogous colours work for me but hey, to each their own.

Forget Rules

The thing is, there aren't really any rules as to what makes a great extreme macro background, and it's very much an individual judgement call. So spend the time studying what works.

There are various ways to get a decent background in your extreme macro shot. As you increase your magnification, controlling the background becomes more and more difficult, and such things as microscopy are (currently) out of the scope of what I cover here.

A Wall Of OOF

By a wall of OOF I mean a wall of out of focus, and this can work both for you and against you. Some extreme macro photographers like to show a very extreme transition between what is out of focus and what is in focus. This has the advantage of really showing up the specimen, and works great with insect eyes to emphasize them. Other like a more gradual approach, usually achieved in a stack by adding a last frame in at a higher aperture using a M42 Iris.

Dark against Dark

One issue worth noting about backgrounds Rim or side lighting will help you sort dark against dark is trying to shoot a dark subject on a dark background. For example, a black antenna against a dark brown background. This causes at least two difficulties - the noise inherent in the dark background and separating out a dark foreground and background. Rim or side lighting will help you sort dark against dark and good postprocessing software is the key to the former.

The Single Colour Background

all sort of classical colour schemes worth looking at

There are all sort of classical colour schemes worth looking at in terms of which colours will work well as a background with your subject's foreground colour. These schemes might give you inspiration, and bearing these in mind when you're taking your shot is well worth the time. There are also various ways to achieve the single colour background.

The Gradient Background

A nice gradient is a bit more complicated to achieve in your extreme macro photography than one colour and but there are various ways to achieve it. Some gradients seem to work especially well in extreme macro.

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