Hey Macro Geeks, Ask Me Anything!

I am Mike Moats from Michigan, and have been a pro macro photographer for 15 years.

I’ve been a lifetime member here at NPN since 2004, where I got lots of help in those early years,

I’m happy to help you with any questions you have about macro/close-up photography.

See more of my work here: https://www.tinylandscapes.com/

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Hi Mike, and thank you for doing this for us. Macro is my very favorite of all the types of photographer, and I think it is because it is like a whole different universe. I was wondering, do you always use a tripod, or do you handhold, maybe using a flash? I do like my freedom from the tripod, and sometimes would have missed the shot had I been on one, because little insects don’t always stay still for me. So I have been known to use a twin flash, if more light is needed. Thank you.

Hi Mike. Great to see you back at NPN. We all have missed you.

My question - when you shoot images of flowers/plants that have “dew drops/rain drops” on them, is that actual water or do you use a glycerin/water mix? If so, would you mind sharing the water/glycerin ratio for the mix and how to best spray it on the flowers for best results?

Shirly, I am not steady enough to hand hold, so I am on a tripod 100% of the time. I never use a flash, as 90 percent of what I shoot is with natural light, but on occasion I will use a LED light for a little fill light. I only shoot live subjects at daybreak on cool mornings, as their body temps lower to the point that the can’t fly, which gives me time to set up my tripod, and take my time composing. The image you see of the hoverfly in this post actually flew into the frame as I was shooting the flower.


I don’t have a question, Mike, but since I am new to NPN as a member, I just wanted to use this forum to say that I am a big fan of your macro work! You have really ‘worked’ it over the years and continue to create amazing images! Thanks for being here and helping others!


Hey Bill, good to hear from you, I believe you’ve been a member here as long as I have been. I never carry water to add water drops, I only shoot subjects that have natural dew or rain drops after a rain. I have recommended people using a spray bottle to create fake dew, and have mentioned to people about adding glycerin, but don’t have any answer to the ratio, but I’m sure there is a youtube video about it.

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Thank you very much Brenda, and I’m honored to hear that from another pro photographer. NPN was a great help to me when I was getting started. Glad you joined. I am hoping to start posting again here at NPN, as it’s been a while since I was a regular. Thanks again.

You’re welcome - it’s hard when we are working to make a living off teaching and other things to simply just share and be part of a community, I get it! I come and go all the time but have recently realized the value in communities like this and will hopefully stick with it more often. It’s sure better than some of the social media platforms out there!


Hello Mike. I attended your Macro Conference in Cleveland a couple of years ago and it was one of the very best photo workshops I have attended. Are you planning on hosting another one in the Ohio area? Thank you

Mike, those 3 posts are all outstanding. Having just been out “watching” some hoverflies, combination of it’s size (looks larger than 1:1 based on the width of the image) and the depth-of-field are very striking. How did you make this?

Thanks for doing this!

Thanks Bill for attending, and I did three years in a row there, and although we did sell out the third year, it took a lot longer then the first two years, so it was time to move on to another state. This years conference was in South Carolina, but I have canceled it due to the virus. I am rescheduling it for 2021 at the same location. This years sold out in record time in SC, so it may be there for a few years before coming back to Ohio.

Mike: Can you describe/discuss your strategy for getting as sharp and noise free photos as possible? I saw that you always use a tripod and that you take images in the morning, therefore you still have to fight the compromise of low light, wanting as high a shutter speed as possible with as low an ISO as possible. Do you expose to the right, use special noise reduction software, use a camera like the Canon EOS 1dx Mark ? with low megapixels and thus low noise, other? I am excited to hear your response and thank you for doing this!

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Mark, just by luck it happened. I was actually set up on a tripod shooting the flower when the hovefly cruised in, and I quickly shot off this frame. So no skill on my part other then being in the right place at the right time. I believe the f/stop was set at f/8.

Alexander, you would be quite surprised that I use an old Nikon D7000, that is about 8 years old. I shoot at 800 ISO, and never have any issue with low light even shooting in the high f/stop ranges, f/22 and higher. I very rarely have any noise issue, but if I do, I use Nik Software’s, Define. I do all my shooting on at daybreak on windless days, which are not all that often. Thanks.

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Mike: do you use any special type of tripod head? I purchased one several hears ago that has micro adjustments in the x, y and z directions. It takes a little time to get used to. Another one would be one that slides. This would allow you to move in closer or maybe even stack your images if your subject doesn’t move.

Hello Mike. Omg, I so love that bug photo. It’s magical. The depth is incredible. Thank you for explaining how carefully, yet simply you work your work. I am so brand new here and with macro. I literally did my first practice shots yesterday. I am amazed at how interesting they look. I do have trouble staying sharp and getting depth in. Any advice?
And thank you. Lynsey

Hello Mike. I have attended one of your workshops in the past and love your photography. I just purchased some extension tubes but it doesn’t seem to allow back button focus. Am I missing something? Thanks.

I never use back button focus, I always manually focus on all my subjects, so can’t help with this one, but I’m betting it has something to do with the electronics system not allowing the tubes to work with the back button focus.

Mike, I find macro photography to be very challenging (for a variety of reasons). I have noticed some more extreme macro images involve a lot of focus stacking. Do you do any focus stacking due to depth of field limitations, and if so, do you have any recommendations for someone trying that for the first time with macro?