9 Epic close up images that’ll make you reach for the macro lens

Winning images from the Close-Up Photographer of the Year awards will inspire you to get nearer to your subjects…

Anyone who has tried close up photography will tell you how magical a genre it is, with the ability to show everyday subjects in a whole new light. Well, the best of the best frames from this style of image-making have been recognised via the annual Close-Up Photographer of the Year awards.

The contest saw more than 9,000 entries from 56 countries competing in nine categories and this year Pål Hermansen was awarded the prestigious title of Close-up Photographer of the Year for a beautifully abstract frame showing insects discovered in a defective lamp on the side of his house in Norway and was captured using a Hasselblad H3D 39.  Pål not only takes home £2,500 and the CUPOTY trophy but his image is included in the Top 100 online gallery at

Image (c) Pål Hermansen / Close-Up Photographer of the Year

In the Animals category, Juan J. González Ahumada wowed the judges with his image of a daddy long legs, which the Spanish photographer captured with a Canon 6D DSLR paired with a Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. Juan commented; ‘These creatures are blind and use their front legs to guide themselves in the dark. With little space to move, I managed to light the subject from behind and used a 20 second exposure to capture the movement of its long legs.’

Image (c) Juan J. González Ahumada / Close-Up Photographer of the Year

This year’s contest saw two new categories being added, one of which was the Underwater category, which was won by Italian photographer Alessandro Grasso, who used a Canon 5D Mark IV paired with a Sigma 15mm fisheye lens to capture this spectacular shot of an octopus sheltering in a noble pen shell.

Image (c) Alessandro Grasso / Close-Up Photographer of the Year

The other new category to the awards was Butterflies & Insects, which was won by Indian photographer Ripan Biswas, for an image entitled ‘Mating Underwater’, which captured two dragonflies mating in the water and was shot using a Nikon D5200 paired with a Tamron 90mm macro lens.

Image (c) Ripan Biswas / Close-Up Photographer of the Year

In the Manmade category, UK-based photographer Rachel McNulty triumphed with her image of a gin bottle transformed into a painterly landscape, complete with stormy sky and sea, which was captured with an Olympus E-M1 Mark II paired with a 60mm Macro lens. Rachel commented; ‘At the start of lockdown last year (2020) I embarked on a home-based project to create abstract seascapes using colourful glass bottles, a macro lens and natural daylight. This was all done from my dining room table, with the sunlight enhancing the colours and casting incredible reflections within the bottles.’

Image (c) Rachel McNulty / Close-Up Photographer of the Year

The Close-Up Photographer of the Year awards recognised future talent and UK-based Ezra Bouton scooped the  Young Close-up Photographer of the Year title for a charming frame of a rat peering out of an abandoned car wheel close to his home, which he captured with a Canon 90D paired with a Sigma 150-600mm lens.

Image (c) Ezra Boulton / Close-Up Photographer of the Year

UK photographer Barry Webb was named as the winner for the Plants & Fungi category for a beautiful image entitled ‘Holly Parachute’, which was captured on a Olympus E-M1 Mark II paired with a 60mm macro lens. Barry commented; ‘Last December, while cutting the hedge in my garden, I spotted what I thought were slime moulds, growing on this dead holly leaf. On closer inspection, I noticed amazing spikes coming out of the cap of these small, rare, Holly Parachute fungi, Marasmius hudsonii. I took the holly leaf into my greenhouse, out of the wind, and then spent some time carefully arranging moss behind, to create a pleasant background. I deliberately chose a composition using the pointed edges of the holly leaf as a frame and to echo the spikes of the little fungi. This is a 42 shot focus stack, combined in Zerene Stacker.’

Image (c) Barry Webb / Close-Up Photographer of the Year

Taking the win in the Intimate Landscape category was this shot by Irish photographer Daragh Muldowney. Entitled ‘Junction Y’, Daragh used a Canon 5DS R paired with a 24-70mm lens and commented; ‘This was shot on Lake Baikal in Siberia in February 2019 as part of my most recent collection Beacons. I have had a fascination with ice for many years now and this led me to explore Lake Baikal. I am inspired by form and composition in nature – beautiful lines, textures or shapes that become a work of art when you look closely or compose in a particular way. I love the intersecting lines in this small feathery crack in the ice. I processed this in a way to help the detail of this exquisite crack to stand out from the depths below.’

Image (c) Daragh Muldowney / Close-Up Photographer of the Year

Lastly, the Micro category was won by Swedish photographer Håkan Kvarnström for an image entitled ‘Spiral Beauty’, which was captured using a Sony a9 camera and Håkan commented; ‘This green algae Spirogyra has one of the most fascinating chloroplast shapes of all algae – a helical shape, or spiral. Spirogyras thrive in almost any freshwater environment and are a common species that is easy to find in shallow ponds, ditches and lakes. For this photograph I stained some of the Spirogyra strands with a number of fluorescent dyes to highlight the spirally shaped chloroplasts. They were then mixed with natural strands and placed next to each other on a glass slide and photographed in fluorescent light.’

Image (c) Håkan Kvarnström / Close-Up Photographer of the Year