When to Use a Macro Lens?

Do you want to buy a macro lens but are unsure how to use it? This article got you covered! I will explain what a macro lens does below.

When I think about my favorite photos to capture, the first subjects that come to mind are insects and plants. There is something incredible about shooting the tiniest details and making them seem enlarged in a photograph. That is why I love using my macro lens.

A macro lens is a specialty camera lens that lets you get close to your subject. It is especially handy for several occasions.

This article will discuss the best time to use a macro lens. I will also give you insight into what does a macro lens do.

Without further ado, let us take a closer look below! 

What Is a Macro Lens?

Before I talk about the best time to use a macro lens, I would first like to discuss its definition.

Macro describes something large in scale. In photography, a macro lens can bring you closer to the subject and record its details. 

Unlike other types of lenses, macro lenses offer a short minimum focusing distance. They allow you to get very close to the subject.

Macro lenses also have a magnification ratio of 1:1. That means the image on the sensor has the same size as the subject in real life. It can ultimately make fine details or small objects appear bigger on the camera sensor.

When Would You Use a Macro in Photography?

Now that you have an idea about what a macro lens does, it is time to know the best time to use it.

A macro lens is ideal for shooting close-ups of various subjects. For instance, this type of lens can capture the tiny details of a flower or a leaf. 

Additionally, a macro lens can magnify a subject, like insects. It makes them appear the same size, or sometimes larger, as they are in real life.   

Furthermore, a macro lens can help you capture unique portraits. It creates a shallow depth of field to highlight the subject in the frame.

Finally, macro lenses are suitable for artistic photography. They let you achieve unique photos of a baby’s fingers or a person’s eyes, for example.

What Is the Difference Between a Macro Lens and a Normal Lens?

While a macro lens is commonly used for close-up shots, it does not define them.  

Two essential factors distinguish a true macro lens from a regular lens.

A macro lens can make the subject appear more prominent in the frame. It usually projects a 1:1 magnification factor. That ensures the image in the camera’s sensor is the same size as it is in real life. 

Another notable difference is the shorter minimum focus distance of a macro lens compared to a regular lens. It has an extremely close focusing distance of around 30 cm. Thus, it allows you to get very near to the subject. At the same time, it stays focused on the object to help you capture finer details.

What Is the Best Focal Length for Macro Photography?

The focal length of a lens describes the angle of view and the magnification ratio of the image. 

Macro lenses are available in different focal lengths. The longer the focal length, the further you are from the subject you intend to capture.

Below, I will discuss the focal lengths of macro lenses to help you decide which one best suits your needs.


This standard focal range for macro lenses is ideal for product photography. It requires you to get as near as possible to the subject. So it is best to use the 40-60mm macro lens for something you will not easily scare away. These include inanimate objects, such as food, jewelry, and coins.


The best time to use a 90mm-105mm macro camera lens is for scientific studies. Think of nature, like flowers, plants, insects, and other small animals. 

This telephoto focal range enables you to get closer to the subject without physically moving the camera and lens. Thus, it reduces the risk of scaring away insects when photographing them.

It is the most versatile focal length for a true macro lens.


The 150-200mm focal length is ideal if you cannot get physically close to the subject. It gives you a great working distance, which is suitable for long-range and wildlife macro photography.

This medium telephoto macro lens can take detailed images of insects and reptiles. 

5 Essential Tips on How To Use Macro Lenses

By now, you already know when to use a dedicated macro lens. But how do you exactly take advantage of its full potential?

Read on as I share some tips on using macro lenses to take impressive photos.

Shoot With Proper Lighting

Lighting is essential in all kinds of photography, and macro photography is no exception. In fact, shooting macro photos is slightly more challenging. That is because getting close to a subject can block out the available light in a scene.

It is best to use proper lighting when capturing close-up shots. As much as possible, shoot near a window to get natural illumination. If this is unavailable, you can use artificial lighting sources. Consider having a ring light around your macro lens to illuminate a dark scene. Doing so can also help you achieve proper exposure.

Stabilize Your Shot

Macro photography requires you to get close to the subject for the best results. However, your proximity to the object can make any movement visible.

Fortunately, you can eliminate this camera shake by stabilizing your shot. One of the best ways to keep your camera steady is using a tripod. Get a sturdy one that can support the weight of your camera and lens.

Having a tripod also eliminates your worries about camera motion and blurry photos. Thus, it allows you to focus on taking the perfect shot.

Use the Right Lens Aperture

When using macro lenses, you often get a very shallow depth of field. That means keeping everything in sharp focus can be challenging. It results in some parts of the image looking soft. 

Fortunately, you can always adjust the aperture to meet your needs. You can make the f-stop of your lens larger to achieve a deeper depth of field. Doing so can also help you achieve correct focus. It is handy when photographing tiny details.

However, note that a large f-stop (narrow aperture) lets in less light. It is best to find the right balance between the depth of field and exposure.

Choose Your Subject Wisely

In macro photography, you want to get close to the object to capture its intricate details. However, you will encounter subjects that might move away before you press the shutter button. These include insects and other small animals.

Consider using a telephoto lens if you want to photograph these fast-moving subjects. This type of lens can bring them nearer to you without physically moving closer.

Better yet, choose something inanimate to capture if you are a beginner in macro photography. It is easier to snap photos of a non-moving subject. You can practice shooting insects later as you become more confident in your skills.

Pay Attention to the Background Color

My last tip on using a macro lens is to pay attention to the background. Sure, you probably cannot identify it due to the shallow depth of field. However, you can still notice its color, which can affect the overall look of the image.

Pick background colors that direct the viewer’s eyes toward your subject. Complementary or contrasting hues can make the foreground pop.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a macro lens for other kinds of photography?

Many photographers only use their macro lenses for close-up photography. However, you might be surprised that these lenses can also capture photos of distant objects. You can also use macro lenses for portraits, landscapes, and other kinds of photography.

Is a 50mm lens considered a dedicated macro lens?

A 50mm lens, also known as a nifty fifty, is popular among portrait and street photographers. This portrait lens can come in a macro version.

Remember that focal length does not characterize macro lenses. Instead, you must look at their minimum focusing distance (around 30 cm) and magnification ratio (1:1). If a 50 mm lens has these attributes, then it is a true macro lens.

What is the best macro lens for beginners?

The best macro lenses for beginners or amateur photographers have a telephoto focal range between 90 to 105mm. These allow you to step back from the subject to adjust the view angle for macro photography. A long focal length can also prevent scaring them away, especially if you are shooting insects.


A macro lens offers a close minimum focus distance and a 1:1 magnification ratio. It can effectively capture intricate details and enhance them in a photo. Overall, this lens is optimized for close-up shots of insects, flowers, and nature. However, it is also ideal for portraits and artistic photography.