Macro Lens Hacks

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Macro Lens Hacks
Published by Michelle Foong on 16 September 2016
Spring is here! The flowers are out along with the creepy crawlies! I always find the macro photography world fascinating. I love how abstract it can be and how much attention it draws to the tiny details, literally. For some of us, when we hear the word “macro lens” our wallets tend to flinch, but fear not, there is a way to do macro without having a weeping wallet if you just want to explore it! There are two methods that I use for my macro photography without a dedicated macro lens.
You’d think this photo was captured with a $500+ macro lens set up, but in actual fact it cost me less than $150! How, you ask? What limits our normal lenses from being able to do close-up photos is the distance of our lens to the subject, so to be able to overcome this the gap between the lens and our camera needs to be extended.
On the left of the this photo is my manual extension tube.

An extension tube is what can help in this situation. There are two types of extension tubes that you can get. The first is the one that I’ve used, which is a manual tube, which means it doesn’t allow for communication between the camera and the lens (~AUD$5). The other type is the one that does allow the camera and lens to communicate with one another, i.e. Autofocus is possible (~AUD$30). So, using an extension tube I attached my 50mm lens to the end then voila! Budget macro lens!

Now, the ring sitting next to it is another way to 'hack your lens' for macro photography.
The second method I use is simpler and you can probably use the lens that you got with your camera if you bought it with a kit. In the photo below I used my 18-55mm lens that I got with my first DSLR camera (Canon 400D). All I simply did was reverse my lens using a reverse lens adapter (~AUD$2.50).. You can get really cool extreme macro shots with this method!
With both methods there is a limitation with control over the aperture (unless you’re using the extension tube that allows communication with the camera), but there is a way around this. Most DSLRs have a depth of field preview (usually a small round button on the camera near the lens). While the lens is still attached to your camera, hold down this button with your aperture setting (F11-F14), and unmount the lens at the same time. That way your aperture won’t go back to it’s default when you unmount it and you’re set! Also with focusing all you need to do is simply move your camera closer or further away from the subject until you see that it is in focus.

The challenge is stability and patience!
When using these methods you’re doing it at your own risk, so make sure that it is compatible with your camera and that it’s the right lens mount/size. If you have a camera with a fixed lens there are macro filters that you can use goes on the front of your lens.
So if you think that macro photography is a hobby you'd like to pursue, but your budget isn't ideal at the moment, these lens hacks will be useful for you!

There are further challenges in macro photography, which is all about lighting up your subject.

If you're interested in learning further and you live in Western Australia, I run an introductory workshop for macro photography over in the city of Perth.

Feel free to email me to find out more about my photography workshops at michelle@michemedia.com.