How Macro and Close-Up Photography Differ - dummies

By Thomas Clark

Generally, the arts of macro and close-up photography go hand in hand, and if you’re interested in exploring one, you find yourself exploring the other, as well. There’s a seamless connection between the two that can leave you switching from one to the other without even noticing the difference.


The two are different in some ways and similar in others. You will learn how close you can get to a subject by testing your own equipment.

A photograph is considered to be macro when the subject appears life-size (1:1 magnification ration) or larger on the camera’s digital sensor (or film plane). You achieve this ratio by moving your lens closer than usual to your subject.

Plain and simple, macro photography is close-up photography, but close-up photography isn’t always macro photography. In the event that you’re shooting very close to your subject, but your magnification ratio is less than 1:1 (1:2, or 1:4 perhaps) then you’re creating a close-up image rather than a macro image.

Traditionally a close-up refers to an image that tightly frames a subject. The size of the subject determines just how close you have to be in order to achieve this type of composition. In the image on the left, a macro lens was used to create a close-up of the very small subject. A normal portrait lens was used to create the close-up on the right.


100mm, 1/5, f/11, 400135mm, 1/60, f/2.8, 400