Macro Photography Without the Macro Lens

October 6, 2010 · 37 comments

in Tips & Tricks

You don’t need a special macro lens to do macro photography with your SLR. Yes, you’ve read that right. You can actually shoot some pretty interesting close-up photos with the lens you have. When I first saw this trick via Photojojo, I was skeptical as it was so easy and simple. But after giving it a go myself, I was hooked! It involves no additional equipment or money and results will leave you grinning.

1.) Pick a lens, any lens

Ok, maybe not any lens, but have a look through the lenses you have and choose the one with the widest angle. Don’t go for super zoom lenses, it’s not going to work as well. If you can, pick a prime lens. A 50mm will work just fine.

2.) Unmount your lens

Now, before you do this, it’s preferable that you do this at home in a dust-free environment. As this trick involves you to unmount your lens for a long period of time, dust can easily get into your sensor. You might like to a blower on hand too, just in case!

3.) Flip the lens

Yup, that’s right. Simply flip the lens the other way. Because you can’t mount a reversed lens, you’d simply have to hold it tightly but gently against the camera with one hand. You should have a lens filter on already. If not, this is the time to put it on as you don’t want to scratch the front of your lens.

4.) Manual focus

Because you can’t auto-focus with the camera, you’d have to manually do it. Simply edge closer or move slowly away from the object with your camera.

A tripod helps to ease the blur, but a steady hand and fast shutter speed are equally as good. Make sure there’s plenty of lighting and have your camera mode set to shutter speed priority or automatic. I find a shutter speed faster than 1/200 of a second works well. If your photos are still coming out too dark, you might need to increase the ISO.

5.) Shoot!

Once you like what you see, shoot it! You’d be quite surprised at how close you can get! Here’s a normal shot I took with a 50mm lens:

And here’s what I came up with when I flipped the same lens around:


If you wanted to get even closer to the object, choose a wider lens. Here’s what I achieved with a 28mm:

And check out what a 20mm can produce:

Try it and I hope you’d be surprised by this simple trick as I was. I’m keen to see how this worked out for you!

Article by

1 part ad agency. 2 parts freelancer. An avid urban photographer, traveler, and streetwear lover. Geeky curator of all things awesome. Sustains on Vegemite, meat pies and lamingtons. Follow me on Twitter or Flickr.

Yi has written 69 awesome articles for us at Photoble

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rafael-Ericson/665961450 Rafael Ericson

    i did this thecnic yesterday.. you can check on my flickr, it really works
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rafaelericson/5054424978/

    i used a 18-55mm lenses

    thanks 4 the tips!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rafael-Ericson/665961450 Rafael Ericson

    i did this thecnic yesterday.. you can check on my flickr, it really works
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/rafaelericson/5054424978/

    i used a 18-55mm lenses

    thanks 4 the tips!

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Great stuff Rafael! 🙂

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Great stuff Rafael! 🙂

  • http://www.aweddingbyphoto.com/ Timothy

    I’ve done this before too. Problem is that there is a very shallow depth of field. Can be fun though.

  • http://www.aweddingbyphoto.com/ Timothy

    I’ve done this before too. Problem is that there is a very shallow depth of field. Can be fun though.

  • http://www.mobilecubix.com iPhone App Developers

    Yesterday I try this but i had a problem on that test.My mobile is not good

  • dan

    I just tried your tip! it sure works.. it’s though to make it stable because the lens shake to much. maybe it’s better to use a tripod?

  • dan

    I just tried your tip! it sure works.. it’s though to make it stable because the lens shake to much. maybe it’s better to use a tripod?

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    For the price of nothing, I don’t mind a bit of DoF. 🙂

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    For the price of nothing, I don’t mind a bit of DoF. 🙂

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    A tripod definitely helps, like a gorillapod. Having it on Tv priority also helps.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    A tripod definitely helps, like a gorillapod. Having it on Tv priority also helps.

  • http://www.top-photo-graphy.com photograper

    nice tips!

  • http://www.top-photo-graphy.com photograper

    nice tips!

  • Eve Neville

    Reversing lenses is a great idea – thanks!

    For convenience, I sometimes use a hand-held magnifying glass flush to the lens of my Kodak Z915 compact camera set to “close-up” mode. If a tripod isn’t available, steady hands and time spent on focusing are required in order to avoid fuzzy images. However, unless the subject to be photographed is of one plane (flat), there will be blurred areas in the frame, but the effect might enhance rather than spoil the picture.

    Of course, the great thing about digital photography is that one can take numerous shots and then select the best.

  • Eve Neville

    Reversing lenses is a great idea – thanks!

    For convenience, I sometimes use a hand-held magnifying glass flush to the lens of my Kodak Z915 compact camera set to “close-up” mode. If a tripod isn’t available, steady hands and time spent on focusing are required in order to avoid fuzzy images. However, unless the subject to be photographed is of one plane (flat), there will be blurred areas in the frame, but the effect might enhance rather than spoil the picture.

    Of course, the great thing about digital photography is that one can take numerous shots and then select the best.

  • http://www.mobilecubix.com iPhone App Developers

    Why you deleting my comments…Any thing wrong i put here

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Sorry, I’m not the admin for this site so not sure what comments are being deleted.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Sorry, I’m not the admin for this site so not sure what comments are being deleted.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Thanks Eve for your comment. I’d definitely try your magnifying trick too and see how that goes. 🙂

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Thanks Eve for your comment. I’d definitely try your magnifying trick too and see how that goes. 🙂

  • TeniBitz

    I just ordered zoom filters for my camera so that I can take these kind of shots but this trick is amazing while I’m waiting on the filters.

  • TeniBitz

    I just ordered zoom filters for my camera so that I can take these kind of shots but this trick is amazing while I’m waiting on the filters.

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Macro filters are also great fun! Would love to see some of your photos too. We’ve just created a newly Photoble group on Flickr:
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/photoble

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    Macro filters are also great fun! Would love to see some of your photos too. We’ve just created a newly Photoble group on Flickr:
    http://www.flickr.com/groups/photoble

  • dzevad od bosne

    what kind of magnifying glass did you use????

  • dzevad od bosne

    what kind of magnifying glass did you use????

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  • Kaydenstockwell

    i tried this with my nikon d3000 and 18-55 ml lens. it didnt work. i tried on all settings and iso and exposers. i just got black no matter how much light i shone on the subject. help? please???

  • http://www.twitter.com/yiiee Yi

    It looks like this neat trick won’t work on Nikon cameras — it won’t allow you to shoot without a lens attached. Sorry!

  • San Bao

    Set to M mode 🙂

  • Eddy

    Didnt work for me… Im using 18-135mm lens with 7D .. I flip it around .. and its just Blur.. Everything is Blur.. no matter how far it is or how near it is .. 🙁

  • Ankitdesign

    TRY IN MANUAL MODE IT WORK IN NIKON ALSO
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/megan.milligan Megan Milligan

    I just stumbled across this article while looking for ways to do macro photography on a budget.  jsut tried it out with my 28-70mm lens on the 70mm setting and it worked beautifully!  Didn’t work on the 28mm setting, so I’m thinking I’ll have to troll the pawn shops for a 28mm prime lens unless I stumble across a macro lens as well.  I shoot with a Canon 350D.

  • https://www.offshoreclippingpath.com/ Abdullah Allamin

    I love photography and it is extreme when it is macro photography. I will try this tips.

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