What is Macro Photography ?

So what is Macro Photography ?

Well I guess you can deduce from the Photography it’s about photos, but what exactly is Macro Photography ?

In the strictest definition it is photography where the image of the object you are taking is life size on the medium you are taking it on, be it the film or digital sensor (I’ll call this the sensor for simplicity from here on).  This is commonly referred to as 1:1 (where the ratio represents the size of the image on the sensor).  Note this is the size of the object on the sensor, not on a screen or enlargement made later on.   With the use of specialist lens or additional equipment such as close up diopters or focusing tubes, the magnification of the image can exceed life size on the sensor, and this  would see the ratio change.  Eg If the object appears twice it’s actual size on the sensor, then this is called 2x Magnification or 2:1 as a ratio.

Macro Ratio
Macro Ratio

Macro photography is also now commonly used to refer to taking close up pictures, even though the image is not life size on the sensor.  Whilst not strictly the true technical definition of macro, I would consider this also to be macro photography.  Many modern lens, now purport to have a macro function, although they do not achieve true 1:1 enlargement.  Commonly these lens usually have a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio, meaning that the image appears either 1/2th or 1/3rd life size on the sensor.  It is also a term used to indicate that the lens can focus relatively closely.

Hopefully this gives you a simple idea as to what macro photography is about.

I’ll look at different lens/equipment for macro photography in other articles.


I've been taking macro photography from 2004. I use both Canon film and digital cameras.

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