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What is a macro photo?

From: Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

Video: What is a macro photo?

We've been talking about close-up photos. And, a lot of times, the word macro is used as a generic term to describe any close- up image, or any picture of something small. But, there is an actual technical definition of a macro image. A true macro photo is one where the image on the camera's sensor is the same size as the actual object you're shooting. In other words, there is a one-to-one ratio in the size of the object to the size of the image of the object on the sensor. Now, this doesn't mean that the image is always actual-size photography, because you can print the image at bigger-than-actual size, but the captured image on the sensor is actual size.

What is a macro photo?

We've been talking about close-up photos. And, a lot of times, the word macro is used as a generic term to describe any close- up image, or any picture of something small. But, there is an actual technical definition of a macro image. A true macro photo is one where the image on the camera's sensor is the same size as the actual object you're shooting. In other words, there is a one-to-one ratio in the size of the object to the size of the image of the object on the sensor. Now, this doesn't mean that the image is always actual-size photography, because you can print the image at bigger-than-actual size, but the captured image on the sensor is actual size.

If you magnify the image beyond its actual size, then it's still a macro photo. We refer to capturing an image at actual size as 1x, at double size as 2x, and so on. But, everything from 1x on is considered macro. So, you might group both of these images together as macro shots. But technically, this is a macro photo, and this isn't, simply because this second one is not actually at 1x on the sensor; it's a little smaller than actual size. Now, unless you're engaging in some kind of documentation process that demands actual size imagery, for the sake of scientific accuracy, these technical distinctions really aren't going to matter.

In everyday shooting, you are not going to say, "Uh-oh! This isn't actual size. I'd better make an adjustment." Instead, you're just going to build the composition you want. That composition may be impacted by technical concerns, but whether you're actually shooting at a one-to-one size ratio probably won't be among those concerns. I've defined these terms partly so that you won't embarrass yourself at photographic cocktail parties, but mostly because once we start talking about macro lenses, these terms are going to come up. So, you need to understand this nomenclature as we go deeper into discussing how to choose a macro lens.

But, we're not going to go all the way to macro lenses yet. If you watched the last chapter, you saw how you can use extension tubes or close-up lenses to take your regular lens, and give it some close-up power. In this chapter, we're going to look at another trick for getting closer in, but this time, we're actually going to end up in the true macro range. The idea with this chapter, and the last, is that they will give you the chance to explore some close-up and macro shooting without having to invest in an expensive new lens. So, if you get to the end of this chapter, and you're finding that you are really liking this macro shooting stuff, then you'll be ready to consider a macro lens. And, we'll talk about that in the next chapter.

So, in a macro photo, your subject is actual size on the image sensor. As you'll see in the rest of this course, working at that scale introduces a lot of concerns and issues that you have to deal with very carefully. Now, most of these are exaggerated versions of issues you face in normal shooting, but they can be tricky to deal with. No matter what your subject matter, macro shooting breaks down into two large categories: studio shooting and field shooting. We're going to begin with studio shooting. Now, this doesn't mean that you have to have a studio; it just means we're going to be working indoors.

It's great, though, because you can say to your friends, "Oh! I am working in the studio today," when really, you'll just be at the kitchen table. Even if what you're interested in is shooting bugs, or flowers, or something, I really recommend starting your macro education indoors. If you're just starting out with macro, and the first thing you do is run outside, and try to shoot some bugs in the garden, you're going to be making things very hard on yourself, because, in addition to all of the macro things that you need to learn, you're also going to be facing the problems of the moving subject, and wind, and laying in the mud, and trying to get access to the right angle, and so on.

In the studio -- and you have to say it that way, -- in the studio, you eliminate these issues, and you have complete control over lighting. That makes it much easier to learn the basics down to a really deep level. Later, when you have those basics learned to a point where you don't have to think about them so much, you can take them outside, not have to think about them, and start practicing the techniques that you need for field shooting. So, for the time being, we are going to be working in our studio. Though later, we will be going outside. In this chapter, we are going to take actual macro shots.

And to do that, we're going to modify the lens that you already have. Now, all you need to do this is a hacksaw and some epoxy. No, I am just kidding. It's a simple trick, and you'll see it in the next movie.

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This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up
Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

47 video lessons · 15253 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 3m 54s
    1. Welcome
      2m 17s
    2. What you need to know for this course
      1m 37s
  2. 20m 33s
    1. What is close up?
      2m 21s
    2. Understanding minimum focus distance
      3m 55s
    3. Comparing wide lens and telephoto
      1m 55s
    4. Understanding depth of field and focus
      2m 11s
    5. Working with extension tubes
      4m 30s
    6. Working with close-up lenses
      5m 41s
  3. 28m 7s
    1. What is a macro photo?
      4m 15s
    2. Understanding how to shoot macro with a reversed lens
      5m 37s
    3. Using a point-and-shoot camera for macro
      1m 55s
    4. Working with backdrops for macro
      3m 45s
    5. Practicing macro by shooting in the kitchen
      12m 35s
  4. 58m 38s
    1. Choosing a macro lens
      2m 4s
    2. Exploring macro lens features: Focal length
      3m 16s
    3. Understanding macro lens shutter speed
      7m 6s
    4. Shooting basics with a macro lens
      8m 24s
    5. Getting closer with macro lenses and extension tubes
      11m 13s
    6. Working with depth of field and macro
      5m 1s
    7. Understanding depth and composition in macro
      6m 43s
    8. Working with subject holders and support
      6m 36s
    9. Shooting with the Canon 65 mm
      8m 15s
  5. 13m 12s
    1. Working with macro stabilizing options
      5m 45s
    2. Working with sliders for macro
      2m 44s
    3. Working with a bellows
      1m 55s
    4. Working with viewfinders in macro
      2m 48s
  6. 52m 59s
    1. Working with direct light
      6m 13s
    2. Macro and the angle of light
      2m 24s
    3. Augmenting direct light with reflectors
      6m 42s
    4. Continuous lighting to add fill to a macro shot
      5m 55s
    5. Lighting your macro scene with continuous light
      4m 50s
    6. Lighting the macro scene with strobes
      4m 59s
    7. Setting up a macro-specific flash unit
      3m 21s
    8. Shooting with the Canon Macro Twin Lite
      7m 56s
    9. Shooting macro in a light tent
      3m 31s
    10. Shooting macro on a light table
      7m 8s
  7. 19m 44s
    1. Field shooting for macro, starting at home
      7m 5s
    2. Managing backgrounds in the field
      7m 39s
    3. Shooting macro water droplets
      5m 0s
  8. 56m 19s
    1. Creating a simple manual focus stack
      4m 40s
    2. Creating a focus stacked image with manual merge
      6m 17s
    3. Creating a focus stacked image using Helicon Remote
      11m 6s
    4. Working with a StackShot rail for focus stacking
      11m 46s
    5. Merging a focus stack with Photoshop
      11m 12s
    6. Merging photo stacks with Helicon
      6m 53s
    7. Understanding the aesthetics of depth of field
      4m 25s
  9. 1m 5s
    1. Next steps
      1m 5s

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