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Macro University – Culturally Speaking, What Is Macro Photography

This is the third and final article in our “What Is Macro?” series.  Macro photography has come to have a variety of different meanings in the world today.  It is a term used loosely to describe an idea, a small subject shown as large with greater detail than normally seen.  It does not have to be an image of 1:1 reproduction with this understanding.  Another variation would be close and tight on a subject.  The later can be done with wide-angle lenses at very close distances to the subject.  Close-ups taken with wide angles produce a very cool effect but fall well outside the technical definition of macro photography.

Camera companies and lens manufacturers have added to this concept by putting the label macro on lenses, which are not macro by definition.   Most times these lenses give you a closer focusing distance than previous generations of the same lens.  It is also a selling point, making the buyer feel like they are getting more value for their money.  Additionally it can help one companies lens stand out compared to a competitor.

 

1:1 image of a Bleeding Heart taken with a Canon 100mm IS Macro Lens.

1:1 image of a Bleeding Heart taken with a Canon 100mm IS Macro Lens.

In culture concepts can take on a life of their own, the meaning of words will change and expand.  The term macro is no different.  In many ways this is a good thing for the craft.  The more people know the concept and the style of images the better exposure macro will receive.  Even with the expanding concept of macro photography, this is still a niche area within the field.

Regardless of what they are called or how they are defined macro images reveal a different world to the viewer.  They are images composed to make people think differently and provide a creative avenue to communicate an idea.   A world full of images all looking the same is a very boring place.

 

Photo of a Bleeding Heart taken with the Canon 28-70mm F/2.8 at minimum focusing distance in the macro range on the lenses focusing scale.   This produced a reproduction ratio of 0.18x.  The lens was at 70mm.

Photo of a Bleeding Heart taken with the Canon 28-70mm F/2.8 at minimum focusing distance in the macro range on the lenses focusing scale. This produced a reproduction ratio of 0.18x. The lens was at 70mm.

One way we see these close-up images everyday is in the TV shows we watch.  There are many great TV shows out there incorporating these types of images into their show.  It is most frequently seen with the use of isolating elements as the show leads into or out of a scene.

Breaking Bad used a lot of this style of shots.  They were used to help show the passage of time in what are termed b-roll shots.  Additionally they were used in the foreshadowing sequences to help advance the story.  There are many other shows out there using the same types of images to communicate the same things.  As you watch TV and movies look for these kinds of images to see how they are being used.

We have explored 3 ways of looking at macro imaging, technically, philosophically and culturally.   When taken as a whole what does it mean?  To understand a craft we have to look at it from many different angles.  We have to draw our inspiration from different forms of media.  The pursuit of a style of art can never become one-dimensional.

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