A Short Course Book
Curtin's Guide to Digital Cameras
And Other Photographic Equipment

Macro Mode And Macro Lenses

Click to explore macro lens enlargement factors.
The universally accepted icon for macro mode.
Click to see the effects of parallax when shooting close to a subject.
The ring flash fires a circle of light although the two sides can be fired independently or with different intensities.
In close-up or tabletop photography, digital cameras have a huge advantage over traditional film cameras because you can review your results and make adjustments as you shoot. If a photo doesn't turn out as you'd hoped, just delete it and try something new. Film photographers have to wait to get the film back from the lab before they can make adjustments. By then, the moment has passed, they have probably left the scene, taken apart the setup, or they have forgotten what it was they did. Take advantage of your instant feedback to experiment and learn.

When photographing small objects, your lens' focal length and minimum focusing distance affect how small objects are captured in photos. For example, if you're photographing a small coin, you probably don't want it to appear as a tiny coin surrounded by a large background. More likely you'd like a photo showing a large coin surrounded by a small background. For many pictures, just zooming your lens in on the subject will suffice. However, macro lenses or lenses with a macro mode allow you to get a lot closer to the subject, making it much larger in the final image. If you can't get close enough to an object to fill the image area, you can always crop out the unwanted areas later. However, the more you crop, the smaller the image becomes.

  • Point-and-shoot or other fixed lens cameras usually have a macro mode that lets you get close to a subject. When using one of these cameras, you should compose the image on the monitor, especially when closer than about 3 feet (90cm). If you don't, a subject centered in the scene won't be centered in the photo unless the camera has an electronic viewfinder so you view the scene through the lens.
  • SLRs show the scene through the lens and have macro lenses and other lenses with a macro mode that let you get closer than normal.
Macro lenses let you get very close to subjects but have very shallow depth of field. Here I focused on the eye of the newt so it was the sharpest part of the photo.

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