Close up and macro 101
Like the differences we’ve tackled in earlier posts such as between framing and composition, and between form and shape, we head now to another one – close up and macro photography. You use macro lens to photograph a micro subject to make it look big. Favorite subjects in this area are insects and flowers. Macro and micro photography are basically the same, but when you speak of macro you’re also referring to these dedicated lenses to do the job for macro/micro photography. Genuine macro lenses are specialized equipment that gives you the power of 1:1 magnification (I refer you to this DPReview article to understand magnification ratios). Canon calls its line of macro lenses “macro” while Nikon refers to its own line as “micro.” It goes without saying that as true macro lenses, these are expensive items. Why did I say “true”? Because most cameras now from DSLR to P&S have that feature represented with the icon of a flower – the macro mode. Essentially the camera picks all the settings – aperture, shutter speed, focal length, depth of field, ISO, etc. – to come up with the optimal magnification that its sensor and general-purpose lens would allow. Now some of these top-of-the-line point and shoot cams can produce macro images that can approximate those taken by true macro lenses, allowing amateurs and hobbyists to enjoy macro photography which, a few years back, was the exclusive domain of professionals. On the other hand, for close up photography you can use any lens. Your purpose here is to have your subject, or part of your subject, fill the frame. Macro photography will fall under the wider scope of close up photography, but not the other way around. So how do you know if an image is macro or close up? The power of magnification by true macro lens will give you fine, extreme details. You’ve probably seen images of eyes and hairs of tiny insects magnified to astounding proportions. Close ups will also produce details but not to extremes such as the Koi fishes above, and the fly below. The normal human eye, unaided, cannot see the tiniest details. Close up and macro photography provides us the means to see the world in a new dimension and perspective.