What is Macro Photography?

Posted on 26 May 2018


Macro photography is the close-up photographing of small objects, often insects and flowers. It provides the photographer with a way to examine, in minute detail, small objects and the patterns and textures on them that would otherwise escape notice. Before the rise of digital photography, macro photography involved more time and effort than it does today.

Macro photography is considered any image that captures a subject that is at least 1/10th of the original size of the object being photographed, but generally are images with subjects shot in life-size, or close to a 1:1 ratio.  Many people get the terms “macro” and “micro” confused, and it is easy to understand why. The two terms are very different, with “macro” meaning big and “micro” meaning small. This confusion is not helped by the major camera manufacturers, like Nikon, who refer to a lens as “micro.” Canon will refer to the same size lens as “macro.” To simplify your thinking on this subject, think about it in this manner: if the subject you are photographing is small and you want to make it look large, you end up with a “macro” view of a “micro” subject.

Macro Photography on Compact Cameras

Today, macro photography is much easier. Many compact cameras have point-and-shoot macro modes that can pull out some fairly impressive close-ups. Typically, a camera’s macro photography capability is measured by how close you can shoot an object while still being able to focus as well as the number of pixels in the image. The minimum distance from the lens that the camera can focus should be listed on the camera’s specifications. Newer cameras can achieve focus even when the subject is just an inch or so from the lens.

Macro Photography on DSLRs

On DSLR cameras, macro photography doesn’t depend on the camera. What matters is the lens. To shoot macro photography on a DSLR camera, make sure you select the right lens. (I use the Nikkor 105º Micro which I find gives outstanding resolution.) The lens will list technical specifications, such as a minimum focusing distance and a macro ratio. Unlike compact cameras, DSLR cameras provide much more flexibility not only in terms of depth of field and exposure when shooting in macro, but other factors such as the ability to add additional lighting, higher resolution and the use of “live view” to view your images in real time as they will appear.  And in macro photography, the number of pixels really does matter – the more the merrier.

Learn Landscape Photography with Steinberg Photography

Looking to learn the craft of landscape photography or just get into the great outdoors for a wild adventure? Jim and Lori Steinberg of Steinberg Photography are here to help. We run photo tours to exotic locations for photographers of all skill levels. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram to see where we’ve been and check out our schedule to see where we’re headed next!
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