Macro Photography using reverse lens

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.

Jasmine Bud

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!

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  • Reply
    May 27, 2020 at 5:43 pm

    Always an admirer of photography related posts!

  • Reply
    May 27, 2020 at 7:05 pm

    Very beautiful ❤️

  • Reply
    May 27, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    I am in awe of your photography skills. You’re an excellent teacher too! I’ve shared this on social media in hopes others will come and learn from you.

    I adore the photo of your flowers in that beautiful pot! What a work of art. As for macro photography, I’ve always been fascinated by what photographers like you have been able to capture. Isn’t our world amazing? There is so much natural beauty around us that we aren’t even aware of! I’m grateful you have shared some of it with us. Keep up the amazing work. Your posts always inspire me and bring a smile to my face! 🙂

    • Reply
      May 28, 2020 at 2:03 am

      Thank you Holly for your kind and encouraging comments !I am so grateful to you for sharing this post on social media .As you rightly mention , this might benefit others. This was my first attempt at macro photography using the reverse lens . I tried my best to put together, what I learnt from the information gathered and my attempts at it. I could not agree more about the spell bound beauty of nature, so much of it is unknown . Seeing these images up close always leaves me spell bound .Like they say, the beauty of the natural world lies in the details.We can only gratefully admire the creator whose artistic talents are impeccable. Many Thanks again for all the appreciation , it really means a lot. Have a wonderful rest of the week!

  • Reply
    May 28, 2020 at 1:50 am

    Amazing write up & beautiful pictures.

    • Reply
      May 28, 2020 at 2:06 am

      Thank you so much,appreciate it!

  • Reply
    The Karavali Wok
    May 28, 2020 at 5:13 am

    Mind blowing captures Nisha ! Thank you for this amazing post!

    • Reply
      May 28, 2020 at 1:51 pm

      Thank you very much Smitha! It’s my pleasure to share .

  • Reply
    Louis Dallara Fine Art Photography
    May 28, 2020 at 3:29 pm

    5 stars
    Great tips that complement your amazing macro work. Very inspiring too. thanks for sharing

    • Reply
      May 28, 2020 at 3:49 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind comments and encouragement .Your photography is an inspiration to many beginners like me .

  • Reply
    May 29, 2020 at 10:41 pm

    These are awesome clicks. I had to read twice to register what you wrote. Every word made so much sense in terms of capturing the details and making the reverse lens work for you. I’m astound at the knowledge that you have put in managing to make this post plus your interest in the photography. Mind blowing!

    • Reply
      May 30, 2020 at 12:43 am

      Thank you so much Hasina , your wonderful and encouraging comment made my day! I am so pleased to hear that this post is helpful in understanding the reverse lens technique.I’m still learning with every click and sharing along what I learn ,still a long way to go. Appreciate your support!

  • Reply
    Caz / InvisiblyMe
    May 31, 2020 at 9:49 am

    These are incredible photos (as always!) I love macro photography, though admittedly I didn’t have a clue about reverse lens and all the technical aspects of getting these sorts of shots. To see the minutiae of nature really is so beautiful, like the gentle fuzz on a stem. Magical. xx

    • Reply
      May 31, 2020 at 2:49 pm

      Thank you so much Caz! Yes macro photography is very interesting indeed ,even the finest details are clearly seen.

  • Reply
    Anita Malta
    June 1, 2020 at 12:14 pm

    Absolutely amazing macro images Nisha and many valuable tips for anyone interested in photographing the little things in nature or other things with small details. Take care!!

    • Reply
      June 1, 2020 at 2:52 pm

      Thank you so much Anita for the wonderful comment.Yes am hoping the tips put together will be useful to those interested . I am a fan of your spectacular macro photography as well and admire all the pictures you take. Have a good day!

  • Reply
    June 4, 2020 at 10:04 pm

    These captures are amazing, love them. Your post is so beautifully written, with all details necessary to understand Macrophotography.

    • Reply
      June 5, 2020 at 1:34 am

      Happy to hear that Neetha, I’m glad it helps. Thanks a lot for the appreciation!

  • Reply
    July 3, 2020 at 7:31 pm

    Nisha, these are beautiful and your tips are fabulous!

    • Reply
      July 3, 2020 at 10:00 pm

      Thank you so much for the appreciation!

  • Reply
    September 3, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    My goodness. Your photograph skills are so perfect. Kudos to you.

    • Reply
      September 3, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      Thank you for the kind words Shikha. I’m still a beginner learning with every click 🙂 a long way to go!

  • Reply
    September 3, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    Beautiful pictures and awesome tips. keeping sharing

  • Reply
    September 5, 2020 at 2:16 pm

    Absolutely amazing photos!

  • Reply
    September 8, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    Such an awesome technique!

    • Reply
      February 23, 2021 at 4:05 pm

      It is a great technique indeed ,Thanks a lot!

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