What is the Difference Between Closeup, Macro & Micro? Explained Simply | Macro Photography

There seems to be quite a lot of confusion when it comes to determining what is a Closeup Photography,
what is Macro Photography and what is Micro Photography.

I was able to find some information on that topic online… but some of it wasn’t exactly accurate
and I didn’t find a video that explains the difference in a simple way – so I made one.

I remember when I was getting into macro photography 5-6 years ago, how everything was unclear to me also,
so I wanted to share what I’ve learned and hopefully make things easier to understand.

Here are some of the questions I answer in this video:

  • What is the difference between Closeup, Macro and Micro Photography ?
  • Is it all about the lens you use ?
  • Is it about magnification ?
  • When do you go from Colseup to Macro ?
  • When do you go from Macro to Micro ?
  • What is Extreme Macro?

Taking each step towards bigger magnification is challenging.
It took me a while to go from doing single shot closeups with a DSLR…
Then focus stacked closeups with a smartphone in 2016,
then single shot macro with a DSLR… then focus stacked macro with DSLR,
and finally focus stacked Micro with DSLR 🙂


is a photo taken at a close distance that doesn’t reach
the 1:1 real life size ratio. 


Closeup Photography is the easiest one to achieve out of the 3.
Closeups are created just like any other genre of photography, where all you need to do is have a single shot, main point of focus, nice composition and correct exposure. The photographed subject doesn’t have the real life reproduction size. Since you are not photographing from too close – the DOF is wide enough for the whole subject to be in focus and usually focus stacking is not necessary.

Name Variations:

  • Close-up Photography
  • Close Up Photography


  • Digital camera ( DSLR / Mirrorless / Smartphone )
  • Any lens can work – Prime, Telephoto or Macro


  • Daylight
  • Artificial lighting – not required

Depth Of Field:

  • Wide enough to cover the whole subject
  • Focus stacking – not required



is a photo taken at very close distance that reaches at least 1:1 ratio,
and magnification is achieved at a ratio grater than real life size


Macro Photography becomes a bit more complicated – the magnification ratio is at least 1:1 ( life size ). The subject is smaller, the distance to the subject is also smaller. You are working with shallower DOF and things become darker. Often you need to use strong LED lights or a flash and slow shutter speed to get a decent exposure. It’s good to use light diffusers. The DOF is very shallow and only a very small part of the subject is in focus, so focus stacking is often required if you want to have the whole subject in focus.

Name Variations:

  • Photomacrography
  • Macrophotography


  • Digital camera ( DSLR / Mirrorless / Smartphone )
  • Macro Lens / Extension Tubes / Reverse Rings
  • Focusing Rail ( when focus stacking )
  • Remote Shutter Release ( when focus stacking )
  • Strong Lighting
  • Light Diffusers
  • Third Hand Tool ( optional but helps a lot )


  • Daylight is often not enough
  • Artificial lighting is required
  • Light diffusers are required

Depth Of Field:

  • Not wide enough to cover the whole subject
  • Focus stacking is required


is a photo taken at very close distance with the use of a microscope objective.

Magnification ratio for MOs typically start at 4:1 and can go up to 100:1 or more.


Micro Photography is the hardest one to achieve – out of the 3. The magnification is grater – microscope objectives usually start at magnification 4:1. So even if you can achieve that same magnification with reverse rings or extension tubes – but you used a microscope objective – the photo should be refereed to as a Micro Photography. Not only because of the type of lens used, but also because of all the other changes done to the setup when attaching the microscope objective to the camera. My view is that what places a photo in this category is the combination between the lens and the higher magnification – not just one of those factors on it’s own.

Name Variations:

  • Photomicrography
  • Microphotography


  • Digital camera ( DSLR / Mirrorless )
  • Bellows / Extension Tubes
  • RMS adapter
  • Microscope objective
  • Lens ( when using infinite objective )
  • Rail ( when focus stacking )
  • Remote ( when focus stacking )
  • Strong Lighting
  • Light Diffusers
  • Third Hand Tool ( optional but helps a lot )


  • Daylight is not enough
  • Strong artificial lighting is required
  • Light diffusers are required

Depth Of Field:

  • Not wide enough to cover the whole subject
  • Focus stacking is required

The subjects & the photographing distance get even smaller and smaller. There isn’t a lot of space between the subject and the lens so everything is darker. You have to pretty much blast your subject with the lights and use very slow shutter speed. This is why most micro setups are stationary. Adjusting the lights position can be tricky. Using light diffusers definitely helps getting better results. Once again the DOF is very very shallow, so focus stacking often accompanies micro photography.

Please Remember:  


Macro Photography and Micro Photography – are not the same thing !

Many articles mention Macro Photography and Micro Photography
– and somehow all they really talk about is lenses.
Lenses ( on their own ) do not determine the genre.
If you want to talk about lenses then write Macro / Micro Lenses.
When you write “Photography” that speaks about the genre of photography.
So stop saying that those two genres are the same – they are not.

There is a big difference between Single Shot
and Focus Stacked Photography.

Taking 300 shots and aligning them together is a lot more complex
and time consuming,
than snapping one photo.

What about “EXTREME MACRO”, what is that ?


Ok, I know that I am risking to make things even more complicated
but I had to add this term too, because you may come across it.
So extreme macro doesn’t have a clear definition, but to me it would be anything
with magnification greater than 4:1 that is not done with the use of microscope objective.
Yes you can reach that magnification and higher when combining
– extension tubes, reverse ring and wide angle lens.
The highest magnification I got with such setup was 9:1.
This is quite high magnification but – I didn’t use a microscope objective,
so it wasn’t micro photography.

In those cases I would say that it was Extreme Macro.
It is possible that other people have other definition for what extreme macro is.

One last thing – accurate macro magnification measurements
are done without any cropping or digital zooming.
You can crop all you want after you are done with measuring
but not before, because it will give you inaccurate results.


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