Macro Photography for Your SLR
Macrophotography is close-up photography, usually of very small subjects. Modern use of Macro Photography refers to a finished photograph of a subject at greater than life size.
The macro world is an entirely new universe, not easily penetrated with the naked eye. If you own an SLR, you probably like taking photographs, and you will enjoy exploring this new world once you have the right tools. Traditional macro lenses could cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars, which is the typical range for any glass and you may not want to spend that type of money without knowing if it interests you. This article presents a simple tip to help you get some really cool shots and explore this tiny world.
Basically this tip comes down to one simple trick: Disconnect your lens from the body and flip it around. The rest is refining for effect and ease of use. I’m not going to go into the optics explanation of why this works as that goes beyond the scope of this blog post, but it is a really cool effect. Check out the featured image I took with a 55mm fixed focal length lens that costs 80 dollars.
Getting the best shot:
You need to look at a few things to get a good shot here: lens fit (when reversed), aperture (f stop), focal length. The rest you can pretty much let the camera decide.
You can do this with any lens, but it makes sense to start off with a lens that has nearly the same diameter at the far side of the lens as it does the near side. This way when you disconnect and flip the lens around, it will rest nicely up against the body’s open lens interface and not move/shake easily when trying to position it for a shot. It will also minimize any dust getting into your camera body if the fit is snug.
Aperture in a reversed lens works just as it would in a lens that is fastened normally but there is a trick to getting your lens to maintain an aperture that isn’t wide open when you disconnect it from the body. Choose a aperture that will work for your shot with Av mode (aperture priority) – something a few stops off wide open works well like 8 or 9 for starters, and press the depth of field preview button on your camera body. If you have a Canon, this is the unmarked button you probably have never used sitting on the left front side of the body. Without shutting the camera off disconnect the lens while still holding the button. If it worked, the aperture will remain stopped down to the setting you placed it on in Av mode. The reason you want to pick a f stop of 8 or 9 is so that the depth of field is “deep” enough so you can get the detail of the entire subject matter into the shot. You don’t want to stop it down too far because you need a lot of light to take a good macro shot that are often judged for quality based on the level of detail they highlight (so use a tripod or a fast shutter speed)
Focal length on a reversed lens has the opposite effect it has on a lens fastened normally. A wide angle lens will have an extreme zooming effect where as a zoom lens will have less of a magnifying effect. Pick something in the 35mm-55mm range to start off with and work from there.
Take some shots of things up close, you will be amazed and surprised at the textures you will see on normally benign and uninteresting objects. I like taking photos of light bulbs, glass, flowers, insects, machinery, and fabrics – but I just got started in the world of macro. If you try this and like it, you can buy a cheap lens adapter that allows you to screw in the reversed lens to the body thus solving the issue of having to hold the reversed lens up to the camera with your left hand.
We’d love to see your experimental macro photos. Email us at everybody [at] stewover DOT com or post them on our Facebook wall and we’ll pick a winner who will get an exclusive Stew Over tee!