What Is the Difference Between Micro, Macro and Close-Up Photography?

One question you might ask yourself when you’re just starting out with macro photography is the difference between macro, micro and close-up photography. Is there one? Are they all the same?

There is. And they’re not.

In our article we’ll take you through everything macro, micro and close-up. You’ll learn what the differences between these three photography types are, and what equipment can help you with each.

Close-Up Photography

The term ‘close-up photography’ has no scientific definition. It is generally understood to mean any photo that shows the subject closer and in more detail than we’re used to seeing in everyday life.

It can be applied to a tightly cropped head shot, a flower stamen or even the moon. It’s not so much about the nearness of the subject as it is about the field of view.

Obviously we can’t get significantly closer to the moon by moving the camera. But for small terrestrial objects, getting closer to the subject is the crux of the matter.

As we move closer to a subject, the image on the sensor gets larger.

But there’s a snag – you’ll eventually reach the minimum focusing distance, where you can no longer focus the image.

Achieving True Macro

For non close-up photography, the size of the image of a subject formed on the sensor is much smaller than the subject itself.

For example, the image of a tree 10 metres tall might only produce an image 1 cm tall on the sensor. That’s a ratio of 1:1000. As we get closer to small objects, the image size on the sensor gets much closer to the real-life size of the subject.

Eventually, if we can get close enough and still keep the subject in focus, we can produce an image that’s the same size as the subject.

At that point, the ratio will be 1:1. This is sometimes called life-size or just X1 magnification. It is the point at which we pass from general close-up images to true macro.

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