with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Books for Closeup Photography

Closeup of a Daddy Long Legs Spider by Brent VanFossenA website visitor asked for recommendations on books for closeup or macro photography. Brent had just picked up the Nature’s Best Magazine, a phenomenal photography magazine, and we were thrilled with the amazing nature images, especially the closeup work. So this was a chance to update our closeup photography book recommendations list.

Closeup photography is a passion of Brent’s and mine, though we don’t get to do it as much as we used to. All this traveling, you know. Anyway, I thought I’d share my answer with you all since it is such a fascinating aspect of photography which opens up a whole new world to explore – right under your feet.

Thanks for the questions and I do have some recommendations which, if you had looked a little closer (ha!) you would have found some of these on our site. We recommend a wide variety of books. The specific books would be John Shaw’s Closeups in Nature, Joe McDonald’s New Complete Guide to Wildlife Photography, and for closeup inspiration, Freeman Patterson’s The Garden.

The first two books will give you good technical information. Shaw’s book is the best overall introduction to closeup photography, covering the basics. McDonald’s book is fabulous and looks at closeup photography with wildlife, a very challenging and nearly impossible aspect of nature photography that he makes look simple and easy. It covers other aspects of wildlife photography but his closeup work is truly amazing.

For inspiration, any of Freeman’s books will do the job, but this new one, The Garden, is breathtaking. He has had health problems lately but it hasn’t stopped him from working closer to home with his creative and innovative style and the beauty he has captured in this book is phenomenal. He doesn’t cover the technical, but who cares when you can only dream of duplicating his stuff.

Those will get you really started. If you need really good basic introduction to nature photography and how your camera works, our basic nature photography workbook will help, and we highly recommend John Shaw’s book, The Nature Photography Field Guide.

There are some really OLD books out there from Photo Life or Life Magazine or Kodak (actually all of them, I think) on photographing through microscopes and doing medical photography. These are horrible but they give you the basics of how to do much of it yourself and understand the technology. Lennart Nilsson’s incredible photographs of inside the womb and the development of the fetus still stands as some of the most amazing photography in the world and in history, as far as I’m concerned. Not just for the clarity of the images and the brilliance of the work, but the techniques behind the process. There are dozens of articles about him on the net and he has a couple of books. I’d look there, too.

I hope this helps. We haven’t been traveling with our bellows but have had the tilt/shift. They are similar but very different in what they can do and when it comes to closeups, we love the bellows for getting extreme. Try a reversing ring on your 55mm and slap it on the front and see a WHOLE new world in a grain of salt. The hardest part of all of this is geting the light to the subject in order to photograph it at that magnification. If you aren’t outdoors with natural light to use, it complicates things.

Let me know what you decide and where you are going to take this. And thanks again for asking.

Water droplets on grasses photograph by Brent VanFossenIf you have a question about photography, you can ask here (below in comments) . We love answering questions about nature photography. We are usually asked about life on the road and Israel, but we LOVE talking about photography.


  • Posted June 27, 2005 at 4:53 | Permalink

    I wanna know about rain photography. It’s monsoon time here. I want to take good pictures of rain. pls guide.
    – Dark

  • Posted June 27, 2005 at 6:07 | Permalink

    We have an entire category of photographic techniques dealing with weather for you to browse.

    We also have an article about photographing in the rain.

    Good luck and I hope this helps, wherever you are.

  • Posted November 22, 2005 at 16:56 | Permalink

    I like to bring flower/other images in a simple water drop, as reflections. I own 80mm focal lengh canon EOS66 and 10+,2+,4+,1+ closeup filters. Can I able to do that?

  • Harold Armitage
    Posted December 18, 2006 at 17:45 | Permalink

    Just found your site. A wealth of information.It certainly covers the subject and I am looking forward to reading it all.

    I am getting back into macro photography and can’t decide between a flash system with twin lights either side of the lens, say the Nikon R1/R1C1 system or the Sigma ring flash system, EM140DG. I favour the ring light but perhaps I should be considering the twin lights more? Can you advise?

  • Posted December 18, 2006 at 18:12 | Permalink

    Depends upon what you are photographing. The issue is how many spots of light and shapes of light do you want on your subject, if you are photographing a reflective subject. It also depends upon the size, mobility in and around the subject, and whether or not you are working inside or outside, and many other factors.

    Twin lights give two dots on reflective subjects or within the eyes of living subjects. A ring flash creates a “ring” circle light. If you are working in the wild, twin lights, even on a cross beam attachment, are cumbersome to work with. A ring would be better, is lighter, and much less to deal within allowing greater freedom of movement. In the studio, either will work.

    So the answer is “depends”. Personally, I work with reflectors and natural lighting when I can, and flash as a last resort, but then, we work with natural subjects in nature not in the studio. I’ve used both, and each technique works depending upon the answers to those questions.

    For more information on macro or closeup photography, check out our online book on Closeup Photography.

Post a Comment

Your email is kept private. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.