Macro Photography without Macro lens
Macro photography can be an expensive affair as the lens for macro photos is quite expensive. This post is about how to take macro photos in an alternative and affordable way.
What is Macro photography ?
Macro photography involves photographing images of small miniature subjects. Some common examples are insects, buds, flowers, leaves, coins, fine jewelry, water droplets, dewdrops, and so on. The idea is to make the subject appear life-size or larger. This fascinating form of photography opens us to a new detailed world, which largely goes unnoticed. Most of the finest details cannot be seen with unaided eyes and without magnification. Macro photography captures at least on a 1:1 scale on the camera’s sensor of the actual size of the subject in real life.
There are many cameras these days that help focus closely. You may have noticed the close-up option in many DSLRs. They are however not true macro photos, just close-ups. The images can then be magnified and cropped. A macro is a true sense, is one where the image recorded in the sensor is the same or larger in size than the subject. It is easy to get addicted and fall in love with macro photography once you pursue it. You might be completely surprised and astonished by the unexpected visual details that you find under the lens. The best part of macro shooting is you can find interesting subjects to photograph just by looking around your house or backyard.
How do I take macro photos ?
The simplest way to learn and shoot macro photography is to buy a dedicated macro lens. However, macro lenses are very expensive. If you are a beginner and still trying to figure if you truly love this form of photography, it may not be the best option. The other affordable ways to take macro photos are by using magnifying lenses or diopters with an existing lens, extension tubes that increase the distance between the lens and the sensor, and the best and easiest of all reverse mounting your existing lens.
Click on each image for higher resolution. The above images of the purple buds were taken using a reverse lens. The last image with buds in the pot was taken with a regular lens. This is to show the extent of magnification. This was my first attempt at using the reverse lens and hope to better it with more practice.
How to take macro photos using reverse lens technique?
All you need is an adapter i.e reverse lens ring shown in the picture above which costs about 8$, your prime lens preferably with manual aperture control and camera. Take care to purchase the ring that has the same filter threads as your lens. The metallic ring has 2 adaptations, one that mounts on the camera body. It goes in just like a normal lens would attach. The other adaptation is used to mount your lens backward. Next set the focus to manual focus. Zoom the lens to the maximum value. The aperture setting will be widest by default.
Some things to keep in mind
Safety - The lens, the pins that communicate with the camera, and the internal glass element are all exposed when the lens is reversed. It is always safer to protect it with the lens cap when not using the camera. This prevents dust and any other damages.
No Auto Focus - There will be no longer autofocus capability when the lens is mounted in the reverse mode. You will need to manually move back and forth, swaying closer and away from the subject, and get the right focus by looking through your viewfinder. As soon as you see a sharp image, hold your breath and click without shaking. This takes a little practice to master, so be very patient.
Manual Aperture Control setting - You will no longer have aperture control from the camera. When not attached to the camera, the lens aperture will usually be widely open .It may show F00 where the F/stop value should have been. This is obviously because the lens can no longer communicate with the camera. It needs to be manually set. For cameras without the manual aperture ring, for instance in my case, the Canon Rebel T2i, there is a workaround to set it manually and lock it before reversing the lens.
- Mount the lens normally.
- Set to desired F-stop value.
- Hold the DOF (Depth of field) preview button at the bottom of the camera and release the lens.
- You will hear a swish sound when you press down. Now the F-stop value is set.
- Now reverse mount the lens. If you look through the lens, it will show the aperture value set.
What F-stop value should I use? To use a higher F-stop (smaller aperture) or lower F-stop(larger aperture) depends on the photographer. Some folks suggest a higher F-stop for getting a sharp focus, but the reduced light can be a problem. With a lower F-stop(wider aperture), certain portions of the image will be blurred. It is finally the photographer's call to achieve the right balance. Many of them go for the largest aperture to get an image without allowing blurring. Some others prefer a smaller aperture to get a sharper image, crop and magnify the picture. The lower light for the small aperture can be compensated by using the right shutter speeds to expose the shot. Flash and tripod can be used as well.
Hope this post inspires you to try macro photography. The reverse lens technique is a great option for beginners. If you have any tricks for macro photography with the reverse lens, please do mention them in the comments below. Happy clicking!