Macro pho­tog­ra­phy was once out of reach for most peo­ple because it required a sig­nif­i­cant invest­ment in equip­ment, but today any­one with a DSLR or even a dig­i­tal cam­era can try it.


Want to learn macro pho­tog­ra­phy? This guide will help you choose the right tool for the job and show you that no spe­cial equip­ment is required!

Define your goals

Macro pho­tog­ra­phy can be as sim­ple and afford­able or com­plex and expen­sive as your abil­i­ties allow. Are you going to be a pro­fes­sion­al macro pho­tog­ra­ph­er or do you want to have fun doing your favorite hob­by?

If you have a dig­i­tal cam­era, you can do macro pho­tog­ra­phy with­out any addi­tion­al equip­ment. The vast major­i­ty of dig­i­tal cam­eras, from point-and-shoot cam­eras to SLRs, have a macro mode that can be accessed through an exter­nal con­trol or via the viewfind­er menu.

Option #1: Compact Cameras

With such cam­eras, when macro mode is select­ed, the lens ele­ments are auto­mat­i­cal­ly adjust­ed to focus at close range. On the plus side, it’s a free and easy way to take great close-up and macro shots with­out invest­ing in addi­tion­al equip­ment.

The down­side is that pho­tos won’t have the same lev­el of fideli­ty, detail, and qual­i­ty as pho­tos tak­en with a DSLR and a ded­i­cat­ed macro lens.

If you are just start­ing to think about get­ting into macro pho­tog­ra­phy, then this cam­era is a great place to start. You can explore a new direc­tion in pho­tog­ra­phy with­out any invest­ment in equip­ment or learn­ing new tech­niques and see if it’s right for you.


Option #2: SLR Cameras

If you have a DSLR, the pos­si­bil­i­ties for macro pho­tog­ra­phy increase expo­nen­tial­ly.

You can use a lens you already own, add hard­ware to expand the capa­bil­i­ties of your lens, or you can buy lens­es designed specif­i­cal­ly for macro pho­tog­ra­phy. They all work and they can all pro­duce great images, so the choice depends on your bud­get, expe­ri­ence, and the image qual­i­ty you need to get.

Here are some ideas on how to turn your DSLR into a macro machine.

Let’s start with the most afford­able options.

Flip the lens you already have

If you have a 50mm prime lens, you have the basics of macro pho­tog­ra­phy set­up.

This is the reverse lens method: you take the 50mm lens off the cam­era and rotate it so that the front side of the lens, which would nor­mal­ly face the sub­ject, is fac­ing the cam­era.

If your hands are not shak­ing, then you can sim­ply press the lens against the cam­era. If you can’t hold it straight, you can pur­chase a spe­cial adapter called a revers­ing ring that holds the lens upside down on the cam­era. Revers­ing rings are wide­ly avail­able where cam­era acces­sories are sold and cost less than a piz­za.

Adapter ring (reversible) Fuji­mi Step-Up 49–52mm on fotosklad.ru

This method is relat­ed to how a lens with a fixed focal length of 50 mm works. In stan­dard pho­tog­ra­phy, a 50mm lens focus­es light from far away, mak­ing the image small­er so that it can be cap­tured by a dig­i­tal sen­sor. When you flip the lens, the oppo­site hap­pens and the image is enlarged to near­ly life size. This method works with fixed lens­es of any size, but 50mm is con­sid­ered by many to give the best results.


Use two lens­es and flip one of them

If you have anoth­er lens in addi­tion to the 50mm, you can put them togeth­er to cre­ate a pow­er­ful macro set­up.

This method, known as “dou­ble reverse lens”, will work with any lens as the pri­ma­ry (attached to the cam­era behind the reversed 50mm). The longer the focal length of the main lens, the greater the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion will be.

To use this method to its full poten­tial, you need to pur­chase a con­nec­tor ring and con­nect the two lens­es togeth­er. It’s eas­i­est if both lens­es have the same size fil­ter threads, but oth­er­wise you can use a stepped ring to match them up.

To imple­ment this tech­nique, sim­ply attach the main lens to the cam­era as usu­al, then flip the 50mm lens over and use the cou­pling ring (plus a stepped ring if need­ed) to attach it to the main lens.

The two lens­es make this set­up excep­tion­al­ly pow­er­ful, but some­what unwieldy, and it can be tricky to get a clear shot while hold­ing the cam­era in your hand. There­fore, it will be bet­ter to use a tri­pod to sta­bi­lize the cam­era and a cable release to release the shut­ter.

Exten­sion rings

Anoth­er way to adapt your DSLR for macro pho­tog­ra­phy is to use exten­sion rings that attach between the lens and the cam­era mount to increase the exten­sion of your lens.

They don’t have optics, so their effect depends entire­ly on their abil­i­ty to change the lens’s min­i­mum focus­ing dis­tance, or how close you can get to your sub­ject and still be in focus. The wider the exten­sion ring, the clos­er you can get to the sub­ject and still focus, and the clos­er you get, the high­er the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion of the lens becomes.

Exten­sion rings JJC AET-CS(II) 12mm, 20mm, 36mm for Canon EOS (set) on fotosklad.ru

Exten­sion rings are often sold as sets of three rings in dif­fer­ent sizes, and each ring can be used on its own or attached to one or more addi­tion­al rings for more length.

Their cost varies from less than one and a half thou­sand rubles to more than 10 thou­sand rubles, depend­ing on the type and brand. The cheap­est type of exten­sion tubes are sim­ple adapters that do not pro­vide an elec­tri­cal con­nec­tion between the lens and the cam­era body. More expen­sive exten­sion rings have elec­tri­cal con­tacts that keep the lens in con­tact with the cam­era, allow­ing you to adjust the aper­ture set­ting, expo­sure, etc.

Exten­sion rings are best for short to medi­um focal length sub­jects. Since they can be used with any lens and com­bined to cre­ate dif­fer­ent lengths and mag­ni­fi­ca­tions, they are very ver­sa­tile acces­sories. The only major down­side to exten­sion rings is that they cre­ate some light loss, but set­ting your cam­era to auto expo­sure com­pen­sates for this.


Attached lens

Macro lens­es are like loupes that are screwed onto your lens. They are usu­al­ly sold in sets of four. These are sim­ple and straight­for­ward acces­sories that do just one thing: short­en the min­i­mum focus­ing dis­tance of your lens so you can cap­ture sharp shots of close sub­jects.

And they work in the same way as a nor­mal mag­ni­fy­ing glass — using curved glass to change the light so that objects appear larg­er.

While lens­es are afford­able, they do have some lim­i­ta­tions. They can only be used for objects that are very close to you, pho­tos tak­en with attached lens­es tend to be soft­er and less detailed. Lens­es often cre­ate unwant­ed col­or prob­lems such as “ring­ing” or chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tion.

If you’re seri­ous about macro pho­tog­ra­phy, or plan on doing it a lot, lens­es alone prob­a­bly won’t be enough. But if you’re most­ly just inter­est­ed in ran­dom, detailed close-ups, then using lens­es can be fun and often results in beau­ti­ful, com­pelling images.

macro lens

If you want to shoot macro pro­fes­sion­al­ly, there is no real sub­sti­tute for a macro lens. These high­ly spe­cial­ized sophis­ti­cat­ed lens­es can focus from infin­i­ty to a mag­ni­fi­ca­tion ratio of at least 1:1 at the max­i­mum focus set­ting, mean­ing the image is repro­duced on the sen­sor at full size.

The mag­ni­fi­ca­tion ratio of macro lens­es varies depend­ing on the focal length of the lens, with some macro lens­es reach­ing a mag­ni­fi­ca­tion ratio of 5:1 or pro­duc­ing an image up to five times the size of the sub­ject.

Most macro lens­es have a fixed focal length. Because focal length deter­mines how close you need to be to your sub­ject, it’s impor­tant to choose the one that best suits your sub­jects and style.

Lens 7Artisans 60mm F2.8 for Micro 4/3 macro on fotosklad.ru

The short­er focal length of 50mm or 60mm is suit­able for sub­jects such as plants, flow­ers and inan­i­mate objects that can be pho­tographed at very close range.

How­ev­er, objects such as insects or wild ani­mals, which can be dan­ger­ous or eas­i­ly star­tled, need to be pho­tographed from a dis­tance, so a large focal length of 100mm or more is crit­i­cal.

Macro lens­es are great for cap­tur­ing very small objects at close range, but that’s not their only advan­tage. Macro lens­es are actu­al­ly very flex­i­ble and can be used in many areas of pho­tog­ra­phy, from food pho­tog­ra­phy to por­traits.

Today’s macro lens­es incor­po­rate many advanced focus­ing tech­nolo­gies, vibra­tion reduc­tion and light con­trol to deliv­er amaz­ing­ly sharp, dis­tor­tion-free images.

All these tech­nolo­gies are not cheap. There­fore, a macro lens is prob­a­bly not the best choice for those who just want to exper­i­ment a lit­tle. But for those who are seri­ous about cap­tur­ing the finest details of the small­est sub­jects and pro­duc­ing the high­est qual­i­ty images, a macro lens is a great invest­ment.

Optional macro accessories

Among the most valu­able acces­sories for macro pho­tog­ra­phy are a tri­pod and a remote shut­ter release. When shoot­ing macro, it is very impor­tant to keep the cam­era in a sta­ble posi­tion, so tools that exclude hand con­tact as much as pos­si­ble will def­i­nite­ly come in handy on the farm.

Because macro pho­tog­ra­phy typ­i­cal­ly uses a very nar­row aper­ture, get­ting enough light can be a real chal­lenge. One solu­tion is to use a ring light, a sim­ple, afford­able and effec­tive tool that goes right over your cam­era lens. The ring light is not as pow­er­ful as a stan­dard flash, but it pro­vides a soft, even light on the sub­ject.