Online Tutorials: Macro Photography

Macro photography allows detail to be recorded on the camera media to a realistic scale of 1 to 1 allowing a lot of detail to be recorded. The term 'macro' is often referred to many scales of magnification and their true terminology is identified below:

close upScale 1:10 to 1:2 "Close up"

Extreme close upScale 1:2 to 1:1 "Extreme close up"

True macroScale 1:1 to 10:1 "True macro"


When photographing items in macro, you will need to be very careful of the depth of field and the distance the lens is away from the subject.

macro symbol

Compact digital cameras will often have a macro (close focusing) setting and is one of the benefits of compact digital cameras, as it makes it quick and easy to do macro photography.

Every camera model is slightly different but if you have a dial setting or button that shows this symbol, you can take macro images.


The magnifications refer to the size of the image on the film compared to its size in reality. Thus 1:1 is life size, 1:2 half life size.

A few lenses have a "macro" setting marked on the focusing scale, but this is not true macro, just extreme close-up. There are several other methods of obtaining a macro or extreme close-up without buying a dedicated macro lens.


The two most common are shown below:

Close-up dioptre lens


A close-up dioptre lens, which screws on or slots into the front of the camera lens, is perhaps the cheapest way of making your standard lens focus closer. Several of these lenses may be used together to achieve magnifications up to about life-size. Unfortunately, quality begins to suffer, particularly in around the edges of the image, as magnification increases.

Extension tubes

extention tubes

Extension tubes fitted between the camera and the lens will also decrease the minimum focussing distance. Metering may become a problem since quite a lot of light is lost due to the extension and exposure times of several seconds may be required. Modern electronic and autofocus cameras may lose their abilities to calculate the correct exposure when using cheaper extension tubes. Practice, experimentation and a light meter are useful when using these accessories.