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In our days, it is widely accepted that every photo of a small object is “macro photography”. In fact, this is not entirely so. The main difference between macro and close-up is the amount of micro detail, which is naturally achieved when shooting at higher magnification. Whether a photo falls into one category or another is not important, as long as it captures the viewer’s attention, but still, it’s good to call things by their own names.

Images of small objects are usually divided into three categories, according to the range of magnification used when shooting:
– Close-up – magnifications from 0.1x to 1x;
– Macro – from 1x to 20x;
– Micro – more than 20x.

Close-up photography is the easiest to shoot – you don’t need any special gear, light is sufficient, working distance is not an issue either. Depth of field is more than enough, so focusing is rather easy. Product photography often falls into this category.

In true macro, things get more complicated. Requirements toward the gear are greater and a macro lens is necessary in order to gain maximum image quality. Of course, there are a lot of other, cheaper, ways to achieve such magnifications, but they compromise one thing or another. With magnifications greater than 1x, light gets scarce, and in many cases, the use of additional light and/or a tripod is required. Working distance also gets shorter, depth of field is less than a millimeter. Finding the object in the viewfinder gets harder, so does focusing and shooting.

Micro photography, logically, uses microscopes. Shooting is performed in a controlled environment which makes it surprisingly easy. For maximum quality, it is advisable that the image is formed solely by the microscope’s optic system. Digital SLR cameras are most convenient for work with a microscope, due to all the advantages they have, compared to non-interchangeable lens cameras. This type of photography is generally used for research purposes, therefore images rarely have artistic value.

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