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10 Tips For Still Life Photography With Macro Lenses

You asked yourself the question of whether to use a macro lens for still life photography? If yes, and this information is important to you, you will find the answer in this article by professional food photographer Rachel.

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The most common macro for still life photography

Let’s start with the most common focal lengths for macro:

  • 60 mm
  • 90 mm / 100 mm / 105 mm
  • For each brand of camera, there is what is considered a “normal” focal length or a “narrow” focal length.
  • We offer 10 tips to get the most out of shooting.

Do not use a macro lens as a macro lens

Still life photography is different from classic macro photography. Although using the same lens, the similarity may end there. In still lifes, such as shooting food, viewers want to see more than sesame on a hamburger bun.Perhaps the most important aspect of a macro lens is that it has a minimum focusing distance. For this reason, you can take a picture closer to the subject. This is useful for certain types of snapshots, such as insect photography .The still life is supposed to be located a little further. The minimum focal length allows you to take detailed pictures that tell a story.

Shoot with a closed aperture to capture more detail

In grocery, advertising, or commercial food photography, photographs are usually taken in the f / 18-f / 22 aperture range. As for books and publications – we will talk about f / 8 or even f / 11. So if you are used to shooting at f / 4.5 for still life photography, even f / 5.6 will seem uninteresting and flatter to you. To get the most out of the shot and capture a number of details, be sure to scroll through the apertures: starting from f / 4.5 and, if possible, to f / 11. Of course, when you start shooting with smaller apertures, such as f / 11, you might already need a tripod for macro photography .

Experiment with distance

Macro lenses should also be considered as fixed lenses . For still life photography, using a good macro lens helps eliminate the need to switch between lenses to capture the details of the subject.When Rachel can take with her only one lens for food photography, she takes a 60mm macro 2.8. This allows her to come closer when needed, but by taking a step back, the lens can act just like 50 mm. The photographer’s favorite macro lens for photographing still lifes is 105 mm 2.8. After several close-ups, she always takes a few steps back. Changes perspectives and perspectives. This helps to get several variations of the composition.

Use a 105mm / 100mm macro lens for 45-degree shots

The best macro lenses for still-life angular shots are 90 or 105 mm. So you eliminate perspective distortions when you try to get closer with other lenses. These types of macro lenses also allow you to get clear details in the foreground and blur auxiliary objects in the composition. Macro lenses can also be good for flat lay shots. But they really “shine” from angles of 35-70 degrees.

Use VR when holding the lens with your hand

Good technique is needed to reduce camera shake. Some of the macro lenses, such as 90 or 105 mm, are equipped with a vibration reduction system. Vibration reduction is a lens feature that improves image stability. This is achieved by automatically compensating for camera shake. If you shoot most of your still lifes using a tripod, you can turn off the VR. In fact, it is recommended to turn it off when using a tripod, since using the “vibration reduction” function can sometimes cause slight camera shake.

Shoot tall objects

Which items are best to shoot depends on the shooting angle. If you shoot flatlay, then any focal length will work well: for both tall and flat subjects. If you shoot 90 or 105 mm on the lens at an angle of 45 degrees, you need to shoot tall objects.

Blur background

To make the most of blurring the background and getting it without unnecessary detail, you should keep the distance between the objects and the background. Your subject should be closer to the camera. The distance between the subject and the background helps to increase the depth of field. Always experiment with aperture range when the lens is new. This will help you find the optimum depth of field for taking pictures.

Macro lenses can help you blur the background.

Use a 60mm macro lens on the crop sensor

If you had the opportunity to have only one macro lens, and your camera model does not belong to the full format, a 60 mm macro lens or equivalent is best. This is due to the fact that such a focal length on a crop is equivalent to a focal length of 90 mm, which is narrow enough for a still life. In addition, a 60 mm macro lens on a camera with a crop sensor will still allow blurring of the background and it will be optimal for shooting objects at an angle of 45 degrees.

Shot with a 60 mm macro on a camera with crop sensor

Use 105 mm / 100 mm for full frame

If you do not have a camera with a crop sensor, or you recently updated it to full-frame, then the photographer recommends adding a 90 mm or 105 mm macro lens to the collection. This will allow you to get angles, depth and blur that you will not get with other lenses.

105 mm macro shot full frame

A macro lens for still life helps capture the repetition and detail in the composition. By reducing the amount of negative space and space for adding more items, the photographer helps the viewer freely explore the most important details in the picture.

Shot with Nikkor 105mm 2.8, the viewer can focus on the most important details


The ability to have a minimum focusing distance allows you to get those juicy details that are famous for the macro photography niche. With a clear focus and blurring of the background, you become the proud owner of the most powerful still lifes shot at a 45-degree angle. If you can only purchase one lens, select 60 mm for the crop factor and 90 mm-105 mm for the full frame. And you will have creative happiness!

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