Sam Kacey

Sam's expertise is in Landscape, Portrait, and Travel photography. He and his team also review the best Cameras and Lenses on the market in 2022 for B&H Photo.

One of the most important features of photography is to capture even the slightest of detail that a human eye can not detect. However, there is more than one way to take a picture, and the world of photography has long been divided into three categories, macro, close-up, and micro. These terms are important in understanding how to capture images and particularly how to find your photographic identity.

If we look at the definitions of micro and macro, we can say that macro means large and micro means small. In photography, they refer to making small things big. Knowing the difference can help you improve your photography skills and choose which type is right for a particular event.

Many photographers are unaware of this difference, and in some cases, they don’t even notice it. To help you understand the difference, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on the different types of photography.

What Is Close-up Photography?

Close-up photography is exactly what its name implies—a photograph focusing on the subject. There’s no need to purchase a special lens for it, as any camera can capture a close-up shot. You need to focus on the object and zoom in to capture the details.

Any picture with a magnification ratio less than 1:1 will be considered a close-up photograph. Historically, close-up photography was performed with a lens that brought the subject into sharp focus on a small area of the image sensor. However, with digital cameras, you can use a lens with a large focal length to create an illusion of a wide image.

What Is Micro Photography?

Microphotography transforms a small object, such as an insect, into a larger object. For example, a spherical water droplet can be magnified and photographed to enlarge the sphere. It captures things that cannot be seen with a naked eye.

This type of photography requires a special lens as not every camera can capture microphotographs. Moreover, it can capture at least 20 times larger than what you see in real life. Any picture with a magnification ratio of 20:1 or greater will be considered a micro-photograph. Compared to macro lenses, the cost of micro lenses is usually less.

What Is Macro Photography?

Macro photography refers to the type of photography in which the subject is at a distance. Macro photographs are taken with a special lens called a macro lens. This lens type is comparatively expensive as the subject occupies the major portion of the frame. There are also macro cameras that are best suited for macro photography.

Any picture with a magnification ratio of 1:1 will be considered a macro photograph. Moreover, a macro lens takes you near and close to the subject at hand, whether it’s an animal, leaf, or flower.

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

To understand the difference between micro, macro, and close-up photography, you first need to learn about their magnification ratios.

Magnification is an effect used in photography that enlarges the appearance of an image, not the physical dimensions. A magnification ratio is the ratio of the image divided by the distance between the near and far objects being viewed. The farther the image, the greater is the magnification ratio.

A lens with a magnification ratio of 10/20 will give an image ten times the size of a distance of 20 feet.

With the value of magnification ratio, you can distinguish between the three types. For a micro image, the magnification ratio should be 20:1 or greater. A macro image contains a magnification ratio of 1:1, whereas, for a close-up image, it should be less than 1:1.

With a macro shot, you can capture details that are not visible to the naked eye, which is not possible with the other two types. Moreover, micro/macro photography requires a special type of lens which is not the case with close-up photography.

Why Is Extreme Close-up Photography Called Macro?

Different angles of film affect how the light and color in your photo will appear, and different camera modes let you shift your perspective, too. In photography, we refer to these effects as macro and micro effects.

The terms extreme close-up photography and macro photography are used interchangeably and refer to photographs taken with an extremely close focal length lens. With a big lens and minimal f/stops, macro photography captures very small things in extraordinary detail, and the photograph is taken using lenses with high apertures.

Macro vs Micro Photography

A lens with a reproductive ratio of 1:1 is described as macro, which means that the size of the picture captured through the lens will be the same as the original size of an image. For example, a subject with a diameter of 5mm will be projected on the camera as 5mm. Reproductive ratio and magnification are used interchangeably, and both terms refer to the ratio of the actual size of an image.

On the other hand, microphotography can make a subject of 5mm diameter appear to be 10mm on the camera. The point of difference between macro and microphotography is the lens type. Moreover, microphotography uses two lenses, objective and eyepiece. Although some microscopes require a single lens, the most used type is the compound microscope, which has two lenses.

However, a single lens is required for macro photography, and the high magnification of an image is achieved by the length of the bellows extension.

Pros & Cons of Microphotography

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of microphotography.

Pros:

  • Micro photography can produce images that are 20:1 or greater, and the captured image is twice the actual image.
  • A sharp lens is used in micro photography
  • Micro lenses are relatively inexpensive compared to other lenses in the market.
  • Micro lenses produce a high-quality image.

Cons:

  • Micro photography cannot use any type of lens.
  • Micro lenses have low light performance due to small sensors.
  • Micro lenses have weak autofocus.

Pros & Cons of Macro Photography

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of macro photography.

Pros:

  • Macro photography can produce images that are 1:1, and the size of the captured image is the same as the original image
  • Macro lenses are built to capture extreme close-up shots.
  • Macro photography is suitable for subjects like nature, insects, etc., which cannot be seen with a human eye.
  • Any lens with the same focal length can be used for macro photography.
  • Macro lense can help take remarkable close up shots

Cons:

  • Macro lenses are expensive.
  • To shoot close-ups, you need to learn a photo stacking technique.
  • Macro lenses are heavier and are difficult to handle due to their smaller depth of field.
  • Macro lenses are not versatile. In other words, they just do one thing.

Pros & Cons of Close-up Photography

Let’s look at some of the pros and cons of close-up photography.

Pros:

  • Close-up photography can produce images less than the magnification of 1:1.
  • Lenses used for close-up photography are inexpensive compared to extension tubes and macro lenses.
  • No special type of lens is required for close-up shots.
  • A close-up lens is a good option for low-light photography.

Cons:

  • Close-up photography can not capture all the details.
  • The image quality decreases due to the presence of glass between your subject and the camera.
  • A close-up lens may not get you as close to the subject as a macro lens.
  • There’s a chance that you may not be able to use a close-up lens on your camera lens 

Conclusion

The difference between micro, macro, and close-up photography is the camera lens you use. For a macro shot, the lens is typically set at a closer distance, where you can see the larger picture, which is why it’s often used for insect photography.

When it comes to close-up photography, the photo is taken from a greater distance, revealing all the details of the subject. Lastly, a microphotograph is taken from a distance and with a narrow depth of field.

Micro-photography, macro-photography, and close-up photography are among the most popular types of photography. Each has its own set of characteristics and uses. They were developed in the 19th century and perfected in the 20th century when photographers began to photograph small objects and details.

While preparing to capture an image, fine-tune close-up patterns with your camera on-site. It’s important to ensure that patterns cover your entire frame as this will look better in the future, and there won’t be a need to crop the image.

Whether you want to capture a macro, micro, or close-up shot, you need to make sure that you remember these differences to avoid any confusion.

Leave a Reply