So, you want to try your hand at Macro Photography, do ya? Do have the money for a Macro lens? No? Well, never you mind, as I am going to tell you how to produce stunning macro images from your SLR camera and a lens you already own. Reverse Lens Macro really is amazing.
What you need is three things: an SLR camera (film or digital), a lens and an inexpensive macro reverse ring. The macro reverse ring is an adapter where you screw in the front of your lens (just like a filter) to one side of the ring and other side attaches to the lens mount on your camera for a light tight connection. The lens is then on your camera in reverse with the front element facing the camera and the rear element facing away. This creates a magnification effect. You may read where you do not have to use a macro reverse ring but I highly recommend you do for safety. You may drop the lens if you are holding it and dust will easily enter the camera when the shutter is pressed and the mirror swings back exposing the camera’s sensor or film.
What lens can you use? In short, any lens that you can find a macro reverse ring for. I have seen long zoom lenses used but I suggest you stick with something a bit easier to work with. Do you have a kit lens? The 18-55 zooms are perfect for this. For the photos you see here, I choose a Nifty-Fifty which is a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens. The reason I did was so I could select the aperture for the photos. With newer lenses, you can only change the aperture when they are on the camera. Wait, you say, the lens will be on the camera. Ah, but in reverse so the contacts which work with the camera are not engaged. In fact, when you view the Exif data of your reverse lens macro photos, the aperture will be zero!
Setting up for a Reverse Lens Macro session. Grab your trusty tripod and mount your camera with the reversed lens on it. Yes, you really will need to use a tripod. Attach a remote shutter release or use an electronic one. If you do not have one, use your camera’s timer set to 5 seconds. At the high magnifications, any kind of camera shake will ruin a photo. If your camera has a delayed shutter setting, you can use that. Set your camera’s ISO to it’s lowest setting and put the camera in Manual mode. I know, scary stuff but you can do it.
Focusing in Reverse Lens Macro. Now for the part where you will need to call upon your patience and persistence. Focusing. Since the lens is not attached normally to your camera. Auto-focusing does not work. As I do not have a macro focusing rail, I set the lens to it’s closest focusing distance and move either the camera on the tripod or the small subject back and forth until I see areas of sharp focus. No, it is not a very exact method and be prepared for some frustration at first. Soon, you’ll see textures, elements and wondrous macro landscapes like you have never seen. Each change in the camera or subject will bring new compositions to focus. Here’s a big tip I was told about. If the camera has LiveView capabilities, use it to zoom in to really nail the focus.
Aperture selection in Reverse Lens Macro. This only applies if you can change your aperture when the lens is reversed. With the Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens, I can. First, just like your camera does automatically for you when the lens is on correctly, open the lens to its widest aperture. For this lens, that is f/1.8. That will let the most light in and make focusing easier. Once you are satisfied with the focus, you can manually step the lens down to smaller apertures giving you more depth of field. Well, as much depth of field as you will get at high magnification. Some people like the look of macros with a slim area of focus with the rest of the photo out of focus. Others, step down their apertures to f/8, f/11 and even f/22 to get as much in focus as possible. Sound familiar? Remember, since you are in Manual mode, you will have to set the shutter speed based on the camera’s meter reading.
The Fun Begins! Start looking around your house, yard, nearby park, etc. for interesting subjects to photograph with your Macro lens. Look for things with textures, colors, deep areas or layered areas. They can be inorganic or organic. If they are living, please, be respectful (and good luck getting a moving object like an insect in focus!). The fun in this kind of photography is seeing if other people can guess what it was you photographed. Oh, and do not forget a spray bottle filled with water, clear or colored, to give your photos a little added pizazz.
Now, I do not want to hear you complain if you own a SLR camera and a short prime or zoom lens that you could not create something for my Close Up Photography assignment this month. It is a lot of fun. Can anyone guess what is in my photos? Leave me a comment below.