what is the definition of macro photography

The easiest way to explain the definition of macro photography is to go visual and look at a few examples.

macro photography examplesMacro Photography Examples

Here are 3 written interpretations of the meaning of macro photography.

  1. According to wikipedia the definition of Macro Photography is extreme close-up photography, usually of very small subjects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size.
  2. The more common usage is any close-up photography where you can see the details of your subject in a much more intimate way than you would with the naked eye.
  3. The macro photography geeks will tell you that true macro photography is only achieved when you get a 1:1 or greater ratio of the image size on your camera's sensor to actual subject size .


Seeing an object up close and personal as a macro image can give the subject a new meaning to you becasue your perspective of it has changed.

What macro photography means to meBored from the constraints of "social distancing" and the Coronavirus pandemic, I decided to have some indoor fun and practice my composition and lighting technique by playing around with some macro photography.

example of macro photography ratio

The diagram below show that the actual spider is two inches big and the size of the spider's image on the sensor is only 1 inch. Technically speaking, this is not true macro photography. Being more practical, I say that we can call it macro photography because it's very close-up/

Macro photography magnification factor diagramThis diagram shows a 1:2 magnification ratio

Some people, when asked what is macro photography, would say that the magnification factor absolutely must be 1:1 (one to one) or larger. That is the size of the image of the subject on the sensor must exactly the same size as the subject or even larger than the subject to be defined as macro photography.

Although the spider above would definitively be quite a close-up photo, it is only a 1:2 subject to image ratio and would not qualify as macro photography under the stricter definitions of macro.

what is a macro photography lens

The official definition of a macro lens is a lens that should be able to produce a life-sized image of the subject directly on your digital camera's sensor. A genuine macro lens will give you a 1:1 subject-to-image size ratio, or in other words a magnification of at least 1.0.

Usually macro photography lenses are needed to achieve that 1:1 magnification ratio. There are other options available to get close-up photography accomplished. You can attach a tele-converter to your lens to increase magnification without having to move farther back from your subject.

Tele-converters go between the camera body and the lens but do not let you get any closer to your subject which is one of the key aspects needed to take good macro images.

You can also use extension tubes that also go between your regular or macro lens to give you the ability to get closer to your subject. They increase the distance between you lens and camera so that you can decrease the distance between your lens and subject.

Low profile tripod for macro photographyLow profile tripod for macro photography

what is macro photography

A more enticing description of what macro photography is that it's an absorbing activity that will let you visually enter into close places and take a photo that will reveal a new world within that is not available to us with the naked eye.

Most compact digital cameras and DSLRs now have a macro mode.  I am dating myself here but "when I was a kid" I used screw-on diopter filters or professional lens bellows to shoot macro photos.

Whatever definition of macro photography you use, have a blast!   Make it Fun!  Go ahead, what are you waiting for?

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Article published by Bruce Lovelace


Bruce is the publisher of this website. He is the author of the book "Improve Your Photography Instantly."  Read more on Bruce on his Bio Page. He's been known as The Traveling Photographer ever since 1994. Read more about this website.

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