Think big! Don’t sweat the small stuff! Did you want to super-size that? In today’s world, we are taught to think BIG. We go for the big SUV, the big sale and the big burger. In photography, we learn to shoot large landscapes with a wide-angle lens. 

Donner Lake in Winter

But what about thinking small? Let’s talk about macro photography.

What is macro photography? What is micro photography? Are they different from close-up photography? Have I confused you? I’ll give you a hint, two are the same and one is different. Let’s delve into the subject.

Close-up photography takes a subject and zooms in on it. Usually the subject is small, like a plant or an insect, but it could also mean getting close to someone’s eye or face as a subject. The picture is taken with any lens. I’ve taken close-ups with a nifty fifty on a crop sensor camera.

A close-up image taken with an 18-200 mm lens, shot at F/5.6.

Typically, these types of images fill the frame. However, I’ve put flowers or part of flowers off to the side. Shooting with a 200- or 300-mm lens can give you almost macro quality.

This flower was shot at 200 mm at F/5.6.

Macro photography refers to a picture taken with a dedicated macro lens yielding a magnification ratio of 1:1. Meaning, the image depicted on your camera’s sensor is in its actual size. When printed, the subject appears life-sized. This type of photography is used especially when we shoot something exceedingly small or want to capture an extremely small part of it.

Hint: If you want just part of a subject in focus, use a lower F stop (meaning F/number) to get the entire macro subject in focus, use a higher F stop.

The praying mantis in this image appears life-sized as does the part of the flower it’s feeding on. It was shot with a 105 mm macro lens at F/16.

The leaf in this image was shot with the same macro lens, but at F/2.8 creating a more shallow depth of field.

Micro photography is the same as macro photography. Camera manufacturers use the terms interchangeably. You might say that a macro lens takes a picture of a micro subject! I borrowed that last phrase!

One big difference between close-up and macro shooting is breeze. For close-ups you can shoot in a slight breeze because the regular lens isn’t as sensitive as a macro lens. When shooting with a macro lens, any movement in the subject will result in blur. Often, I’ll just take my 55-200 mm lens out when there’s a slight breeze. I can still get nice close-ups.

Oh, yes, everyone says you need a tripod. Confession, I’ve never used one for macro. In fact, I hardly use one at all. However, you will need a steady hand and fast shutter speed.

Now we’ve covered the macro, micro and close-up differences, and you are wanting a macro lens, let’s talk about options. Macro lenses are expensive but there are less expensive alternatives. Extension tubes or reverse ring adaptors to turn your regular lens around are much less expensive options. Personally, I decided against either option and bought a used macro lens for my Nikon D7100. When buying used, be careful. Buy from a store that will let you return it within 90 days if not satisfied. Also purchase one that will give you a 1:1 ratio.

For my Fujifilm camera, I treated myself to a new macro lens, knowing I would use it a lot. It’s a prime 80 mm but still shoots at a 1:1 ratio.

So, which two are the same and the other different? The answer: macro and micro photography are the same and close-up photography is different!

This week’s challenge is to take your camera for a walk around your yard or home and shoot some close-up or macro shots. Too cold, too wet, too busy? Feel free to choose some images from your archives. Be sure to link your response to my original post, and to use the Lens-Artists TAG to help us find you. I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with.

Thank you Tina, Amy, Ann Christine and Patti for this amazing guest host opportunity!

100 thoughts on “Lens-Artists Challenge #130: It’s a Small World

  1. Thank you for sooo much good information. It will take me a while to digest it all, but I’m going to play with my camera settings a bit to see if I can shoot anywhere near how well you do. My favorite photo is that last one — beautiful and detailed!

  2. Anne, thank you for resolving one of many questions that roam about in my mind and an invitation to escape from the news by opening my eyes to “the small stuff.” Will be back 🙂

    1. Thank you Brenda! I’ve also counted on photography to take me away from the harsh realities we live with currently. And, I’m glad I was able to resolve some questions for you.

  3. Thank you Bert and Rusha! I just finished looking at one of your birding blogs. You capture them so wonderfully. Fortunately, flowers stay still. I think they are an easier shoot. I hope you have fun getting in close!

  4. I love macros and been wanting a macro lens but they are just so darn expensive. I ended up settling for screw-on macro filters for my nikon d3500. They are okay and seem to get the job done but I have to get very close to use them otherwise, it’s next to impossible to get the camera to focus. Interesting topic this week. I look forward to tackling it and see what photos I can come up.

  5. Happy to have found you, Anne. For a while there I thought you were going to lead me to Disneyland but they don’t have scary things like praying mantis, do they? Just teasing! Your images speak for themselves. Many thanks for sharing your knowledge and hosting this weeks’ challenge. 🙂 🙂 Have a good week!

    1. So sorry Jo, I had the tag for Lens-Artists spelled wrong (left off the “s” in lens)! Before that I also didn’t put the number of the challenge. I had my young grandkids here! Oh well. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I do wish I could have taken us all to Disneyland. That’s my favorite place. You have a good week too.

  6. These macro/close up photos are amazing, Anne. Thank you for taking time to explain the difference between close up and macro photography, lens and shallow depth of field… I have learned so much from your beautiful post.

  7. Hi, Anne. Your beautiful images and post were a very welcome respite from the news this week! Thank you for sharing what you know about micro/macro and close up images. I especially loved your praying mantis and water droplet images, which are stunning. It was fun experimenting this week with some macro images. I’ll return later with a link to my post. We’re delighted that you’re hosting the challenge this week!

  8. Thanks Amy! This is the first time I received anything from you! Usually I have to find you on a given Saturday! Things are looking up. I hope to see some of you close up/macro images this week.

  9. Wonderful theme. Do you know it’s one of my favorites? Even if I try to do different things, I always go back to close photography.
    Great post, very well explained and with beautiful photographs. 👏

  10. Your post is absolutely beautiful Anne, and we greatly appreciate your guest hosting for us. A few years back I went with extension tubes and my Nikon 70-200 lens. It was fun and I enjoyed the results but soon went back to other subjects and now use my normal lenses for close-ups rather than macro photography. perhaps time to revisit macro – your images make it very tempting! Loved the grasshopper and the leaf especially. Not sure my pingback worked – just in case, my post is here: https://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/2021/01/10/lens-artists-challenge-130-close-encounters/

      1. LOL, I wish Janet! I thought I’d cancelled a scheduled post but WP published it anyway. Then I deleted it which took it out of the reader but didn’t delete the pingback. No idea whatsoever about the 3rd one. Let me just say it wasn’t a happy morning around my house!!!

  11. Thanks Tina! I do appreciate this opportunity. I think most of what we call macro is close up, but it doesn’t matter. We just need to do what makes us happy. Your ping-back worked. Thank you. I’m still a little confused about it all (ping backs, etc.) not being technical! Stay safe.

  12. Nice tutorial on the difference between micro and macro. I’ve used my 16-300mm Tamron to shoot close-up on occasion. I am looking forward to taking my D500 for a walk to capture more images to share this week.

    Thanks for an interesting challenge this week! My LAPC responses always show up on Thursdays.

  13. Thanks John! I’m looking forward to your Thursday post. I typically shoot close up with my 55 – 200mm lens. But, when there’s little breeze and I can get out, I grab my macro and look for those small objects. Stay safe!

  14. Nice to pop in and visit you thanks to the Lens Artists. A lovely, simple and clear explanation of the difference between close-up and macro and some excellent examples. I did a few posts on macros on my travel blog in the summer, but I haven’t used my macro lens (or camera) much at all this past year, though I still keep my eye out for those small things and carry my phone just in case. My LAPC will be up on Wednesday. Hope you will like it.
    Jude xx

  15. Thanks for the excellent description of “macro”, Anne. I love macro photography and hosted the “Macro Moments” challenge for a year. Your photos are beautiful; off to decide on mine!

  16. I especially liked your photo of the praying mantis. We had an almost white one in our garden this summer. I learned they are colored that way briefly when they are changing from one size into the next larger size.

  17. Hello Anne, thanks for sharing such useful information and the beautiful images to go with it. I am sure it will be very helpful not just for my close-up photography but also for my other photography. One thing I am not clear on is whether cropping a macro image makes it a close-up rather than macro photography even if it is shot with a macro lens. What do you think?
    I am hoping to share a couple of photos when I have a moment. Thanks you for hosting this week’s challenge.

    1. Tracy, I crop all the time. I don’t think it makes it a close-up rather than a macro. When I use a macro lens, getting the image sharp is important so I can crop in further. In the end, it’s what you’re happy with. I’m looking forward to seeing your images.

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