Photography – Macro Photography – A Beginner’s Guide – Image and Genre – An article by Goff James

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Goff James, Lily, 2017, FL 50 mm, Exp 1/4sec, f/13, ISO 3200

Welcome followers and visitors to my blog and another update in my photography Beginner’s Guide to Photography.

In previous articles I have spoken frequently about the value of looking at and discussing not only ones own photographs; but, the works of other artists and photographers’ works too.

The above image is one of my own still life photographs created in a photography studio. However one could, as I have done frequently, set up a simple studio at home.

This is the image I will be talking about today.

Macro Photography – Definition

Macro photography can be defined as;

  • close-up  photography; Macro photography (or photomacrography[1] or macrography,[2] and sometimes macrophotography[3]),
  • in which the subject of the photograph is usually very small or is a very small detail of a larger object resulting in a larger than life size image,
  • an image taken from close-up or extreme close-up range allowing it to appear on the sensor plane equal to life size or greater,
  • photographing small animate or inanimate subjects in close detail,
  • photographing everyday objects and making them appear extraordinary,
  • producing photographs of small items larger than life size.
  • referring to the art of making very large photographs).[2][4]
  • as one in which the size of the subject on the negative or image sensor is life size or greater.[5]
  • to a finished photograph of a subject at greater than life size.

Reference Attribution

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Goff James, Lily, 2017, FL 50 mm, Exp 1/4sec, f/13, ISO 3200

The image is a close-up macro photograph of a single lily head. The camera was laid on the same static base which supported the flower head and directly in front of it.

The studio lighting was moderately high key and was positioned above and to the left of frame as well as from behind the camera position.

Within the image the depth of field is very shallow due to focussing so close. Consequently only the central anthers are in the sharp zone of the image ensuring that the foreground image remains clearly defined whilst the background is softened through blurring.

A  small aperture of f/13 was selected to maintain as much sharpness as possible. As the subject was static I used a long exposure time of 1/4. A very fast film speed of ISO 3200 was utilised.

From a compositional perspective the single flower head, on the plain velvet background, fills the frame and is located centrally but off set obliquely avoiding a direct frontal image.

The vibrant colours of the blossom have been accentuated during the photo-editing process and set against a monochrome background. The image is imbued with sheer audacity and boldness.

The editorial modifications that have occurred have accentuated the strong outlines of the petals. However utilising a cut bloom and photographing it in the studio under the artificial light sources has impacted upon the blooms naturalness but it still possesses a remarkable sense of elegance.

The magnification of the lily is so detailed that the background is eliminated. Enlarging the petals far beyond life size proportions forces the viewer to observe the small details and the relationships between the various structures that might otherwise be overlooked.

‘The subject matter … should never obscure its form and colour, which are its real thematic contents.’

Georgia O’Keeffe

By doing this the lily head is transformed into an iconic representation of flowers through integrating the intimate and the grandiose within a single form. A symbol of beauty, sensuality, feminism, contemplation, and inspiration.

O’Keeffe always insisted that there was no hidden symbolism, just the essence of the flower.

However the very nature of the flower invites the viewer to imagine its luscious sensuality but to question the relevance of its symbolism within the context of the composition.

The image conveys a monumentality of presence which is further accentuated by its very minimalist nature.

Though the image is a reflection of a perfectly formed flower there is a sense of an emerging abstraction form from within.

The lily head is bathed in a crisp ambient light, every element quietly asserts its essential properties and presence.

The composition is uniformly vibrantly coloured with its fluorescent pinks, greens and oranges integrated within and counterpointed by the monochrome tones the background.

The image not only possess a pleasing geometric symmetry, a broad spectrum of shade and texture, a sense of blowsy lusciousness but also a provocative sensuality with its apparently  implied erotic imagery.

The staging of the composition very much reflects the influence of 20th Century American artist Georgia O’Keeffe, 1887–1986.

However, O’Keeffe insisted that her works were simply depictions of the beauty of flowers. O’Keeffe may have been emphasising the androgyny of the reproductive parts in order to counter the idea that her subject matter was connected to her gender.

“You hung all your own associations with flowers on my flower. You write about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see of the flower—and I don’t.”

Georgia O’Keeffe (1939)

The focal point of the image are the lily’s anthers located directly centre stage that are the central pivot to the precise outlines of the petals and accentuate the imposing monumentality of the lily.

A pleasing counterpoint is created through the use of contrasting light and dark areas as well as the varied reflective qualities of the light off the various morphological parts of the flower head.

The single lily not only creates shapes, patterns and textures but stands as static monumental structure within the composition providing a sense of cohesion.

A strong sense of rhythm and movement is created through the manner in which the folds in the velvet cloth are echoed in the petals of the lily. 

The convergence of the invading diagonal central lines of the petals, the dot patterning, sepals, stamens and carpel accentuate this sense of flow.

Reference List

More photography by Goff James

I trust that you find some of these ideas useful within the context of your own photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment and allow different ideas to develop as you go along.

Remember what I referred to in previous articles about taking photos and creating photograms; the same applies to considering your own photos, other photographers’ work as well as applying different artist’s ideas too.

Don’t be afraid to experiment.

Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

Remember there are no right or wrong answers or ways of doing it.

Your photographs are your world.

You can do what you like. 

Don’t worry about the theory and trying to remember everything about how to take or consider how to look at or stage a photograph.

Don’t worry about what you might think is right or wrong in talking about or taking photographs.

 Make mistakes. Laugh. Have funJust enjoy the process.

Happy Photography. 

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