Macro Composition Aids

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated August 31, 2017


I have some compositional aids that help me greatly in my extreme macro adventures. Two of them are neither expensive or fancy - they're homemade and they're only rough tools, but they do help me when putting together the extreme macro shot out in the garden.

The last, an expensive field monitor, is actually the least useful of the three, and with this it's more a case of finding a use for a piece of equipment that I already own than buying it just for this purpose.

A Torch

A straw extends out in front of the camera and ends at the focus plane. Means I can creep up to something and get it roughly in focus without too much effort

A small focusable torch makes a great tool to help you compose and focus, especially when doing night macro.

The rig that I have incorporates a GoPro rollbar mount arm which is easily repurposed for extreme macro as a torch arm.

By attaching a maglite focusable torch with rechargeable batteries into here, I can swivel and rotate it round so that the beam of light only crossed the field of view at a plane where the lit subject will be in focus.

This means it's easy and fast to get in focus insects when it's dark outside, and since I use flash to take the actual picture, there's no problematic long exposure or colour temperature issue to contend with.

A Straw

Another similar tool that I use during the daytime is a white straw attached to the bottom of the camera.

The straw extends out in front of the camera and ends at the focus plane. Means I can creep up to something and get it roughly in focus without too much effort, rather than hunting around to try and find where the focus is.

A Viewfinder

A viewfinder that was part of a UV lens purchase that I made. Unlike looking through the camera which is at its lens focus point, I can look through this and get a rough idea of what I'm shooting.

Between this and the straw it means I don't always need to look through the camera to take a shot, which can be useful.

A Field Monitor

I sometimes mount a field monitor on a flash bracket in order to be able to see what I'm shooting from a different direction, ie above.

I can tilt and swivel the field monitor on the bracket. This was more of an afterthought than an intended purpose and whilst it works ok it can be quite disorientating.


If you're doing outdoor work using a flash, then props come in very handy to give you a coloured background. An aluminium baking tin (ie the matte, solid aluminium type) directly behind your subject reflecting the flash back into the camera actually makes the background look like the blue of the sky. Equally, brightly coloured flowers behind the subject give you an amazing splash of colour as the background that is sure to make your macro shot stand out from the crowd.

Comments (2)

Article: Composition Aids
Alexander Vayionis says...
I don`t clearly see the need of a monitor in a field work (unlles of corse you allready have a spare one, as Nobel said , although I can spot the use of it in a studio work. This said from a hundycup person, whitch for the last 9 years leaves on a bed, not able to do any field work, since I can`t even sit on a weelchair. I mean that with the plethora of all that beauty of the nature`s aid (in terms of images and the colors itself has to offer together with the reflections of them) I find a bit overuse and needless the intrfearing of technology aids in the all process.
10th May 2016 7:44am
Petrochemist says...
Sadly not available on the Pentax models but an articulated screen probably gives much of what you'll get from a field monitor. The monitor is likely to offer significantly higher resolution, but I've certainly found the liveview on my micro 4/3 bodies (G1 & G5) to be very useful for macro.
28th November 2013 3:38pm
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