So I recently came across an online discussion about Close-Up photography versus Macro photography. The discussion took place within a Facebook group and there was a lot of interesting comments. The thing that surprised me the most was how much people inter-changed the two terms, essentially likening them to mean the same thing. But are they?
If you look up the terms on wikipedia you will get the definitions:
Close-Up: In filmmaking, television production, still photography and the comic strip medium a close-up tightly frames a person or an object. Close-ups are one of the standard shots used regularly with medium shots and long shots (cinematic techniques). Close-ups display the most detail, but they do not include the broader scene. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Close-up)
Macro: Macro photography (or photomacrography or macrography, and sometimes macrophotography) 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 (though macrophotography technically refers to the art of making very large photographs). By some definitions, a macro photograph is one in which the size of the subject on the negative or image sensor is life size or greater. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macro_photography)
So one is an “extreme” form of the other. But what exactly does that mean? To demonstrate I took a few photos of a baseball I had laying around my office.
The shot to the left was a “close-up” of sorts. In order to focus I had to position the camera fairly far away (~50″) and zoom in. I only zoomed into 100mm since that is the focal length of my macro lens, and I wanted to show the difference between 100mm on the two lenses.
Now to get more of a “close-up” of the baseball, I went ahead and zoomed in all the way on my lens, which happens to be 200mm. This would fit better with the standard definition of “close-up” as it is a tighter frame and you can only really make out the baseball.
And now for the Macro…
This was shot on my 100mm macro lens, roughly 12 inches away from the baseball. The macro lens has a 1:1 reproduction ratio which means that the baseball in this picture would appear to be the same size as if you held it up to your face (roughly 12 inches away like the lens was) and looked at it.
Now I admit, the baseball probably wasn’t the best subject to use for this post because it is a decent size, and with some “normal” camera lenses you could get much closer to it than I did on with my zoom lens. But I wanted to use the 100mm focal length since that is the fixed length of my macro lens, and the only other lens that can reach 100mm is my zoom. So I needed a subject that was relatively easy to focus on with both lenses.
With enough practice you can shoot close-ups of most things, then with editing software you can crop in fairly tight on the subject to give it the appearance of a macro shot. However, the tighter the crop (or the smaller the subject is relative to the frame) you run the risk of getting a pixelated image, especially if you enlarge the photo. So if you plan on taking pictures of very little things, like bugs and blooms, it may be worth the money to purchase a macro lens.
But my point and shoot camera has a macro setting, can I use that? The short answer, is yes*. But with some stipulations (otherwise know as *). Most point and shoot cameras, and some DSLRs will have a macro mode. For the most part these modes won’t let you get closer to your subject, but instead the camera will do its best at blurring the background of the shot, to give it a macro feel which in some cases will be exactly the look you are going for so if you have the macro mode, don’t hesitate to try it out.
Here’s a couple of shots of the set up I used, one with the macro lens the other with the zoom.