A Step-By-Step Guide to Macro Photography Jargon and Equipment

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Macro photography has the ability to wow viewers with seldom-seen views of the world in which we live. For that reason, it’s a highly popular undertaking amongst photographers.

But for some people itching to get into macro photography, there are a couple of barriers that seem difficult to overcome at first: all the macro-related jargon and all the specialized equipment that macro photographers can use to get incredible shots, like the one above. In this step-by-step guide, you’ll learn some of the terminology that seems a bit confusing and get an introduction to a few key pieces of equipment that can help you attain your macro photography goals.

Step 1: Understand the Jargon

iStock 88154457 MEDIUM image

First, let’s clear up any confusion there might be about a few macro photography-related terms that get thrown around a lot.

Macro vs. Close-Up

Where all macro photography is close-up, not all close-up photography is macro. A macro photograph is one in which you seek to make a small subject appear much larger. The image of the ladybug above is an example of this. Conversely, a close-up shot is just that: it is an image of an object taken at close range, and which fills the frame. Where a true macro shot is taken at a specific level of magnification, typically with a dedicated macro lens or other macro photography equipment, a close-up shot can be taken with just about any lens – even a telephoto.


Magnification refers to the size of the subject on your camera’s sensor. Many macro photographs are taken at a 1:1 magnification. All that means is that if the subject, say, a dragonfly, is one inch long in real life, it will be one inch long on your camera’s sensor at 1:1 magnification.

Another example: if that same one-inch-long dragonfly only occupies half an inch on your camera’s sensor, it’s a 1:2 magnification. There is some disagreement regarding the point at which magnification exits the realm of macro, but a good rule of thumb is that if the image on your sensor is at less than a 1:10 magnification, you’re no longer taking a macro shot.

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