As I am a professional photographer and known mainly for my images with wide angle lenses, here is something new. It’s been raining here for weeks already—not the greatest conditions for landscape photography—so I took out my macro lens to photograph some mushrooms in the forest. The great thing about this is that you can do this with any kind of light at any moment of the day.
The mushrooms are (in NL at least) literally everywhere and you can find them especially on wet trees that fell down in forests.
Now this was actually the first time I went out to photograph these mushrooms, and I immediately got addicted! So I can recommend this to anyone who loves this style of photography 🙂 I planned to only go to the forest for about an hour, but I stayed the whole day with so much muscle pain as a result (had to lower myself all the time to shoot the tiny mushrooms on the forest floor).
Here are some images and tips that I came up with:
1. Get Very Low
The prettiest mushrooms are often the tiniest. Sometimes you don’t even see them immediately. They can be on fallen trees or directly on the forest floor. You don’t want to photograph them at an angle, but from the same height as were they are. So get low.
2. Mind Your Background
The background is more important than the subject. This was what I found most important when photographing these little guys. By moving the camera just a few mm, the composition and background completely changes.
3. Use Foreground Bokeh
By getting low with your camera and having some leaves or grass in front of your lens, you’ll have both dreamy foreground blur AND background blur. You can also use red leaves and put them in front of your lens a bit to create that autumn feeling. This way you create more depth.
4. Use a Macro Lens
Use a macro lens or extension tubes. All of these images were made with a 90mm macro. Its my favourite focal length to shoot these kind of shots. You can also get extension tubes for your lens to be able to focus closer to do macro shots.
5. Shoot Wide Open
Use a wide open aperture for extremely dreamy look. I almost always use my macro lens wide open at f/2.8. This way the depth of field is very tiny, and it allows me to create these very dreamy shots.
6. Find Solitary Mushrooms
Find single little mushrooms to shoot. There are often big packs of mushrooms that can be very tempting to photograph, but the most beautiful ones are often the very tiny single ones. Because you can make beautiful framing of a single little mushroom with the dreamy background.
7. Shoot from Below
Photograph them slightly from below so you can see the texture inside. This is something I only noticed later. As a newbie mushroom photographer, I had to ‘learn’ that they looked so beautiful from the inside. They’re often very tiny and low on the ground, so getting below them can be tricky. It gets easier when they’re on a tree.
By getting lower and photographing them from below, you’ll see the beautiful textures in the mushrooms.
8. A Flip Screen is Helpful
A flip screen is super handy. If you don’t have a flip screen you basically need to lie on the ground to see what you’re doing. I was able to take all these shots by crouching down and looking at my flip screen. Makes things a little bit easier
9. Shoot Hand Held
Some people might disagree with this tip. But I shot all of these images hand held. By using the camera hand held I was able to very quickly switch up my angles and composition. Focusing is HARD though, and the forest is often dark. So most of these images are taken at ISO 400-500. If you’re shooting on a tripod, you’ll want to shoot with your center column upside down so that you can place your camera very low to the ground.
10. Bring Something to Sit On
As I was saying, I crouched for almost all of these shots. As a result of hours doing this, I have so much muscle pain today 😀 Next time I’ll bring a piece of cloth to sit on—it will make things so much easier!
Now I don’t consider myself a pro at macro photography, so feel free to give me any tips as well! I really enjoyed photographing these mushrooms and it’s almost like an entire new tiny world. I’ll go back soon to shoot more. You can find more of my work on my website or Instagram. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask!
About the author: Albert Dros is an award-winning Dutch photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. His work has been published by some of the world’s biggest media channels, including TIME, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail, and National Geographic. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram.