Do the usual rules of composition apply to macro photography?
Sure! They do! There are additional challenges and opportunities associated with macro photography that should be taken into consideration though when making your picture:
Depth of field (DOF)
DOF in macro photography is such challenge. And this challenge is an opportunity!
The opportunity lies in the very nice bokeh associated with greater magnification. In this picture the nice bokeh in the upper right is a good example of this. It is evenly soft with subtle nuances. In photography, bokeh is referred to the aesthetic qualities of out of focus (blurred) portion of an image. Moreover, being darker, it is not distracting. When it is possible, keep your out of focus areas darker than your main subject.
Should you have your main subject sharp in its entirety? This is where your interpretation, and limitation of macro photography, comes into play. These mushrooms were photographed at a 90 degrees angle and this helped getting them sharp in the right part of the picture. As they are getting farther in the left side they are becoming out of focus gradually. This in turns help us appreciated their relative distance from each other.
We are used to measure macro photography in magnification ratio. As such, 1:1 is referred to an image on the sensor that is the same size as the reality. In this example, while it might have been tempting to go all the way up to 1:1, the composition would have suffered from it. This is approximately 1:2. This means that on my full frame body, this image was recorded on a 24 x 36mm sensor while in reality it was approximately twice bigger.
When magnification increase DOF is reduced. In this example, the bark, needle and lichen in the lower left contribute nicely to the picture. At a magnification ratio of 1:1 sharpness on these would have been reduced at best. We would also have lost the nice bokeh in the upper right due to a tighter composition.
Depending on the purpose of the picture different decisions would be taken. In this case, I was looking to create something aesthetically interesting.
It is your turn now! When you are looking at this picture, what other composition rules has been used appropriately or have been ignored?
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