The tiny zoom lenses found on many point-and-shoot cameras are much shorter in focal length than the APS or 35mm format lenses used by larger interchangeable lens systems. Shorter focal length zooms found on digital compacts can focus closer and provide greater depth of field (the zone of sharp focus) than the longer lenses found on larger cameras. What this means, in practical terms, is that point-and-shoots are capable of producing sharply focused close-up and macro images with greater depth of field than an equivalent lens on a larger camera would produce, everything else being equal. Compacts can easily capture first rate close macro shots - even if the person using the camera doesn't know the difference between an aperture and an enlarger.
Casual photographers love zoom lenses because they can stand back at some distance from their subject and zoom in. Typically, casual shooters don't like to move in too close to their subject (also known as zooming with your feet) and that's too bad because one of the major factors separating photography enthusiasts from casual shooters is their willingness to move in close to their subject.
Good macro images (like good portraits) eliminate everything except the subject and their immediate surroundings from the composition. The macro photographer's job is to tame that chaos by eliminating the visual clutter and to reveal a world that goes largely unnoticed.
If you search "macro photography" on google you'll retrieve a list of "how to" sites that have one thing in common - they'll generally tell you that you need (at a minimum) a DSLR, a good quality dedicated macro lens, an expensive and complicated external flash unit, and a sturdy tripod to shoot macro images. What most of them won't tell you is that you can get some pretty darn good images with nothing more than a handheld point-and-shoot in Auto mode.
Every picture that illustrates this article was shot with a point-and-shoot - here are some tips to get you started.
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