Is there a difference between Micro and Macro photography?

Lately on Friday afternoons after my grading is finished (most of the time), I’ve been trying to head out on short photo safaris with my colleague Wilson Hurst and the occasional student. Last week the lighting and weather conditions were great, so we took off to the northeast from campus, about a half-hour drive, to a beautiful reservoir just outside of Concordia—Edwin A. Pape Lake.

The low angle of the sun was creating interesting light patterns throughout the well-manicured wooded park and I found some interesting fungi to do some macro work. I pulled out my trusty Nikkor 55mm f2.8 MICRO lens and proceeded to lie on the ground for the extreme close-ups.

Sometimes photographers wonder what’s the difference between lenses that have Micro or Macro stamped on their lens barrels. At the university’s photography equipment check-out gage, we have a number of Canon and Nikon lenses, with the former stating MACRO and the latter stating MICRO. Turns out, both verbiage is correct, provided of course the lens is capable of photographing an object at a 1:1 ratio. In other words: life-size.  If the lens isn’t capable of this type of rendering, then you are simply doing close-up shots and not life-size. So what’s the difference between the terms? It’s just marketing ploys between camera manufacturers.

The great thing about these types of lenses is that it allows the photographer to explore intimate, miniature worlds that commingle with our perceived “normal” world of human beings.

© 2010 Terry Ownby

© 2010 Terry Ownby

© 2010 Terry Ownby


  1. Geoff,
    Thanks for checking out my images and your comment on depth of field. I really love the “bokeh” this older Nikon glass can give. I’ve had that Nikkor Micro for nearly 30 years and it works great on my Nikon D700.

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