5 Tips to Better Macro Photography

One of my favorite memories growing up was when my family lived in Nollarmara in Perth in the 70's. We lived not far from Mirrabooka High school and at the time the land next to the school was native bush. I remember walking through that bush land, deliberately trying to get lost and then trying to find my way back to civilisation. My big adventures!

A lot has changed since then and the land has long since been developed. We only lived in Perth for a few short years as a kid but in my heart Perth was always home and my love of the Western Australian landscape has only grown stronger over the years.

It was really a no brainer when we decided to build our home a few years ago, to buy a block in the outer suburbs opposite bushland that won't be developed. I have the best of both worlds. I'm still close to civilization and I have nature on my doorstep.

Over the last couple of weeks we've had a fair amount of rain which has had me pulling out my macro lens on a few occasions, taking my companion Rolly the dog for a walk and getting back to my first love, nature photography.

There is something quite therapeutic about being out in nature and I have the added advantage of not having to drive anywhere to enjoy it.

So what tips can I offer someone who has invested in a macro lens and wants to improve their macro photos. Here are my top 5.

1. Use a tripod.

When you are trying to photograph fungi, flowers, leaves etc and you are as close as your macro lens will allow you to get the slightest movement back and forward or to side will have you focusing on a different part of said object than you want to focus on. So tripods are really important, keep that camera as still as possible. The closer you are to your subject the less of that object you will have in focus, even with the aperture set to F22.

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2. Take your camera off automatic and keep an eye on your aperture and shutter speed.

When you are close to an object with a macro lens, F16 and above will give you enough in focus in most cases to give you a nice image but as you get close you lose light which means your shutter speed will be quite long and the slightest breeze will ruin your image if the shutter is open for too long leaving your images looking blurry.

3. Use off camera flash.

If you can use off camera flash to add more light this will greatly improve your images. This will allow you to have a much faster shutter speed keeping everything sharp. If an off camera flash isn't in the budget there are some great LED alternatives that are reasonably priced. The aperture ALM9 can be bought at a very reasonable price of $65.00 through Amazon and comes highly recommended.

4. Increase Light sensitivity by increasing your ISO

If flash is not an option increase your camera's light sensitivity by increasing the ISO. Be aware though that the higher the ISO the more  grain you will introduce to the photograph. You could increase the ISO to 800 on most cameras without affecting the quality of the image much at all, no matter what level DSLR camera you have. After that it depends on the camera, some cameras handle high ISO's better than others.

5. Dew and Rain

Water can take your macro shots to the next level. I love nothing better than to go out very early on a crisp dewy morning to see what I can see. Spider webs look amazing covered in dew. also a couple of drops of rain hanging from a flower or leaf can add that extra glisten. If all else fails take a spray bottle full of water along with you.

Keeping it in the Family

Recently my daughter and I started a side business together. My daughter watched me run a market stall selling my landscape photographs many years ago, has watched both my husband run a Glazing business and myself running Elana Halvorson Photography and has been forever coming up with various schemes of businesses she could run, one of the latest was a baby sitting service. Of course I had to explain that it’s hard to offer babysitting services to people as a 12-year-old whose parents are still not prepared to leave her alone at night. I do love her entrepreneurial spirit though and I’d really like to give her a good head start in running her own business and earning her own money. I’m also looking at it from the point of view of teaching her things like presentation, marketing and sales. The other thing is I would like her to start thinking about courses she can do later on to help her run a successful business.  

I’ve been making my own soap for a few years now, so I put it to my daughter and she was really excited by the idea. After all when I would go to a market that’s what I used to come home with. Soap, pickles and sauces! My daughter is quite the little artist so she is working on the logo for us and helping to make the bath salts and foot soaks etc. I’m not too keen on letting her handle lye yet. Soon, when I get over the fact she’s not 5 anymore. Anyone who has read up on how to make soap will know where I’m coming from. It took several years for me to get the courage to attempt making soap. When every tutorial tells you to wear safety goggles, gloves and make sure you add the lye to the water not the other way around you know you’re dealing with some serious stuff!

So getting to the purpose of this blog post and how does it relate to my photography? I have set up a Facebook page for EK body (mine and my daughters first initials) https://www.facebook.com/EKBody/ which is the name at the moment although another stall holder suggested I should go for something more dynamic like Sentsational Soaps or Essential Soaps. I’m thinking that one through. Anyway I needed a picture for our cover photo and I thought it might be nice to make it feel a little personal by having a photo of my daughter and I near our products. Initially I was going to set up my studio lighting and our products but in the end it made just as much sense to take one at the market itself.  I set all the camera settings for my husband set up the flash for him, stood in the place I needed to stand to get the shot I wanted, I handed the camera to my husband to take the photos and then I checked them. They were all blurred and he didn’t understand why. What I hadn’t counted on is that he wouldn’t move the focus point and he was focusing on the fence behind us.

The point is, I have had years of experience with SLR camera’s and most of what I do is just automatic. I forgot that he has very little. Lesson learned and we got there in the end.

From the first round of shots

From the first round of shots

Finally got there

Finally got there

Confession of a Photographer

Our Wedding 2001

Our Wedding 2001

I have a confession to make! I didn’t hire a professional photographer for my wedding. That’s right! One of the most important days of my life and all I have to show for it is a handful of happy snaps. It is one of my biggest regrets!

Years earlier at the ripe old age of 23 I married my first long term relationship. That time, I did hire a professional photographer. I have a beautiful album of photographs hidden away in my mother’s cupboard to a man I am no longer with. Back then it was all about getting married and I went all out! A few years later the relationship ended.

When I met Todd four years later the connection was instant. He was funny and genuine and we were perfect for each other. We balanced each other out. For the first time in my life there were no doubts. Now I knew what my aunty had meant when she said, when she met her husband, she realized why it had never worked with anyone else. We were madly, passionately in love, to the exclusion of everyone else. We were talking about having a family together within months of our first date and Todd proposed after a year.

This time I didn’t care if anyone else was there, I didn’t need a big wedding. I just wanted to BE married to the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. We arranged to get married in the stunning gardens at Caves House in Yallingup with only our parents, Todd’s grandmother, my brother and his family. We finished off with a lovely lunch surrounded by the people who were closest to us.

At the time I was a hobby photographer. I had just won my first landscape photography competition. It was the days when film was king, just before digital cameras took off. I owned an SLR camera and thought I could just set the shots up and hand the camera to my family to take. The photos are adequate but there is nothing that really shows the love, happiness and connections of the day. Investing in a good wedding photographer is the one thing I wish I had done. We just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary this year and we have a beautiful 12-year-old daughter. I have nothing more of that day to show her other than a few snaps.

A good wedding Photographer will capture all of those beautiful moments for you. The love, laughter and tears. The hugs and kisses from those closest to you as they congratulate you on the day, that precious moment between father and daughter, the first kiss as husband and wife, those quirky funny moments that your photographer is ready for. It is the most important investment you will make on the day. Once the day is over you will have those photos for a lifetime.

So what can a good experienced photographer do that you or your friend with the good camera probably won’t.

·         An experienced photographer can anticipate those great natural interactions that happen throughout the day and they are waiting for them.

·         An experienced photographer knows how to make the best out of any lighting situation and can make the necessary adjustments to their camera in low light situations.

·         An experienced photographer has all the extra equipment needed to make beautiful images like a Speedlight, tripod, reflector etc...

·         An experienced photographer will know how to get you and your partner to relax and have fun with the photoshoot.

·         An experienced photographer knows how to pose you and the best angles that will make you look your absolute best.

No matter how simple you want to keep things make that one investment count. Make sure your photographer is on the same page as you and their style reflects what you want. You only get to record that day once!

Exciting Times

Australian Traveler Magazine

I am very excited to announce that a few months ago I had the privilege of going down to Margaret River with a journalist  and photographing the area and the locals for the current issue of Australian Traveler Magazine. It was a wonderful experience, One that I hope to repeat in the near future. 

The downside of being married to a photographer!

For many years now I have enjoyed been part of various camera clubs. It gives me the chance to surround myself with other people who also have a passion for photography. Put me in a room full of photographers and you can't shut me up.

Recently as part of an interclub challenge between Northern Exposure Camera Club and Workshop camera club we had to come up with an image that fit the topic "I'll die of Embarrassment". 

Thanks to my long suffering, yet patient and loving family we were able to put this together. The image won and got a few laughs in the process. 

Thanks guys for hamming it up for me. Love you!  

I'll Die of Emarrasment

How to make Kids smile

1. Ask them not to smile- Crazy, right? By insisting that they give you their most serious (or silly) face kids usually can’t help but crack up every time!

2. Play peekaboo- This one works great for the little ones but not so well with older kids who know what’s up. Make a goofy face and then disappear quickly behind the camera, return again a few seconds later with a different silly expression.

3. Offer them a treat- As long as it’s okay with mum and dad, slip the pouting kid a Smartie or some other small lollie that can be eaten quickly. Even if the child is all smiles the entire photo session, what’s a little positive reinforcement to let them know you appreciate how well behaved they are?

4. Show them the difference- Many kids, especially older ones, can easily tell the difference between a fake smile and a genuine one if you show it to them. Usually, once they’re have an idea of the smile you want they’ll try harder to help you achieve it.

5. Shoot a couple photos with mum or dad too- If the child you’re working with is extremely shy try snapping a few images of them with their mum or dad. Chances are you’ll get some good photos of them and their parents and once they warm up you can ask if they want to enjoy the spotlight by themselves for a while.

6. Engage in an activity with them- Ask them to jump, dance, or do cartwheels! Show them that you’re interested in what they can do. Once they stop focusing on your camera and start having fun the smiles will happen naturally!

7. Give them some control- If you’re taking pictures of older children ask for their opinion. Kids like to feel involved.

8. Act like a kid- Seriously, the sillier you act the better! Neigh like a horse or roar like a lion. Just let your inner child loose for a little while and soon the kids will be laughing just as much as you!

Head shots

As photographers we spend a lot of time training and perfecting our skills so that we can constantly improve and get the best shots for our clients. So on this wet Sunday afternoon I am at home studying and doing just that. I thought I would share with you all a short video put together by a famous and very talented head shot photographer Peter Hurley,  that will also help you as the models get the best out of your images.

Relay for Life

Every year, world wide, different countries and states run an amazing event called Relay for Life, raising much needed funds to help fight cancer. For the last two years I've had the privilege of being the official photographer for the event here in Perth. The relay is run/walked over a 24 hr period at Challenge Stadium by teams raising money for cancer research. The atmosphere is amazing. It's a positive life affirming event celebrating survivors and their carers and remembering those we have lost. The committee and volunteers are beautiful caring human beings who work tirelessly to bring it all together each year. This year the Perth Relay for Life Raised an outstanding $650,000. Well done! Over 30% more Australians are alive today that wouldn't have survived 20 years ago due to the money raised from events just like this.


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Welcome to my new website and my first blog post. A little bit about me the human being. When I'm not being paid to photograph I am either enjoying my gorgeous family and friends or out and about taking photographs for fun. I love landscapes, it's what I  do when I need to quiet my mind and just relax. My own version of yoga I guess. 

The last few years I have taken time away from my family to travel and explore parts of Asia with another photographer friend. I am truly blessed to have a wonderful supportive and encouraging husband who is happy to take over for a couple of weeks a year while I go and have an adventure exploring other cultures.

This year I was lucky enough to explore Myanmar ( Burma) and some of my first blog posts will revolve around that trip. It was a magical experience and I can't wait to share some of those images with you all.

Stay safe everyone