Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

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To get close-up images of tiny subjects when shooting macro photography, you’d normally reach for a macro lens. But what if you want to shoot subjects so small that even the life-size reproduction provided by a macro lens isn’t enough? Why not try this handy reverse lens technique?

With a simple reversing ring that costs about £10 ($15), you can attach a lens to your camera the wrong way round. However, there are compromises when using a reverse lens method.

The first is that there’s no longer any mechanical or electronic contact between the reverse lens and the camera. This means the two bits of kit can’t ‘talk’ to one another, so you lose autofocus, exposure metering (on most cameras) and any opportunity for the camera to control the lens aperture. That last point means you need to use a lens that has a mechanical aperture ring.

Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

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Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

01 Attach the ring
First of all, you need to screw the reversing ring into the filter thread of the lens and then attach this combination onto your camera. We’ve used a manual focus Nikon 28mm lens here, which means we’ll still have complete control over the aperture.

 

Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

02 Set up the camera
You now need to set the camera’s exposure and use Manual focus. Also, if your camera has the facility, turn on the Mirror Lock-up mode to minimise motion blur. With the camera set up, fix it to a stable tripod and move it into place, close to a table or worktop.

 

Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

03 Position the subject
Position the subject. When you’re shooting tiny things, you’ll need to juggle the subject, tripod and camera a little in order to get the composition just right, so take your time. Set the lens to its maximum aperture so you can judge the focus accurately.

 

Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

04 Add some light
To make it easier to position the lighting, use small lights for small subjects. We’re using two small LEDs on moveable arms – you’d normally attach these to a laptop. To get the multi-coloured effect, we’ve covered one light with a blue gel and the other with a red gel.

 

Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

05 Set the aperture
With everything in place, you can now change the aperture setting. Depth of field will be tiny at such high magnifications so we’ve used an aperture of f/8. Remember that the aperture will close as soon as you move the aperture ring, so the viewfinder will become dark.

 

Reverse lens technique for extreme macro photography

06 Finalise the exposure
Working out the exposure can be difficult with this setup. Your camera’s exposure metering will work if you’ve got a Nikon D7000 or above, for instance, but on lower models you’ll be working ‘in the dark’. Take a test exposure, then adjust the shutter speed until the histogram is correct.
Did you like this tutorial? Watch this technique performed by our friends over at N-Photo.

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