What Is Macro Photography

Posted: July 22, 2015 in Uncategorized
What Is Macro?
We think of the term “macro photography” as filling the frame with small subjects.
Shooting within a close distance to the subject.
There are three styles that fall into the “macro photography” category.
We simplify it by lumping all three under the one term “macro photography”
If I’m shooting multiple subjects or larger subjects along with it’s surrounding area, we are really shooting “close-up” photography. The majority of what I shoot would fall into this category.
You see in this image, I’m framing multiple subjects that covers a large area. You can shoot this with your traditional macro lens, or in many cases your standard lenses, depending on the minimum focusing distances of the lens. The minimum focusing distance of my Tamron 18-270 lens, or my Tamron 16-300 lens, would allow me to shoot this subject. So I don’t necessarily need a macro lens for this shot.


If I wanted to shoot this same subject, but move in for a closer shot of just the rain drops, I pull out my macro lens, which is designed to focus in closer, and get us into that 1:1 “macro” range. Once we hit that 1:1 minimum focusing distance of our macro lens, we are now working in the next style, “macro”.


This is also “close-up” photography. I’m shooting a large subject with a surrounding area, and this was easily done with my standard Tamron 16-300 lens.


If we can shoot close-up photography with our standard lens, then why do we need a macro lens? You don’t need a macro lens, if you are only going to shoot “close-ups”, but if you need to get in closer then the “close-up” range, then you will need a macro lens, unless you want to add on extension tubes to your regular lens, which will allow the regular lens to focus in closer and into the macro world.
Even though a regular lens will focus into “macro” ranges with extension tubes, the tubes are a big inconvenience, as each tube only works in a certain range, and you will have to add and subtract tubes as you change distances from the subject, causing you to have to take off the lens each time you change tubes, and also exposing the camera’s sensor to dust when you change tubes. A big hassle, so much better just having a macro lens.
If we are shooting a combination of close-up and macro styles then it’s best to carry a macro lens because it will cover both styles, “close-up” and “macro”.
Here is a section of a small feather shot in the “macro” 1:1 range.
How do you know when you are in the 1:1 range of your macro lens?
It will be when you are shooting in the minimum focusing distance of the macro lens.

These Stamens of a flower are in the “macro” 1:1 range.


As we cross over into the magical land of “micro” photography, it becomes a very tricky area of macro. We are now moving past the 1:1 range into the 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, 5:1 magnification.
This style is when you see an image posted of tiny bugs heads filling the frame. I never do “micro” as I’m not really after bugs, and the very minute areas of the subject I tend to shoot, would become very abstract, and not good sellers for print sales.
With the very high magnification needed to produce “micro” images, it becomes very difficult to work with because of the extreme shallow depth of field. This is one area not for the faint of heart.
I have only produced a couple “micro” images.
This image below is a tiny part from the center of a Gerbera daisy. As you can see the depth of field is very little, so most good “micro” photographers do what is called “focus stacking” where they shoot many shots at different focus points and then use a “focus stacking” software like Helicon Focus to merge all the sharpest parts of each shot into one fully focused image.
It can sometimes take up to 50 shots to get all the points of focus through out the subject, so that’s what kind of shallow depth of field you can expect.
So how do you get into that “micro range”.
You can do what I did and find a 50mm standard lens and a reversing ring that will screw on the front of the 50mm to the front of your macro lens.
You could use extension tubes or close-up filters added to you macro lens that will allow you to focus in closer to the subject.
Canon makes a macro lens called a MP-E 65mm. It will go from “macro” 1:1 range, up to 5:1 for your super “micro” world.

Here is another example of working in the “micro” style. This tiny section of a dragon fly wing, and I added some extension tubes onto my macro lens for the higher magnification.

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  1. Caerlynn Art Studio says:

    These are wonderful images, and what a great explanation. Keep up the great work!

  2. Lisa Lacasse says:

    Your posts are inspiring, creative and informative – I can’t begin to tell you how many people I have forwarded them too – thanks Lisa Lacasse

  3. Sharana Mueller says:

    Hi Mike!

    *This was explained very well and very clearly! THANK YOU!!*

    *I am signed up to take you class in Warrenville in February, and very much looking forward to it!!!* *I have a Nikon 18-200 lens with a Nikon 7000 body.* *Will this lens do the same close up photography as either of the Tamron lens?* *I do have the Tamron 90, but would like a lens that would do both.* *I also like to do landscape photography, so want to use my lens for both macro and landscape,* *with good image quality for both macro and landscape.*

    *In summary, do you recommend getting a Tamron lens, if so which?*


    *Sharana Mueller*

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