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You don't necessarily need a macro lens to do macro photography. By mounting a prime lens "backward"—with the front elements closest to the imaging sensor—you can turn it into a low-cost macro lens. All you need is an inexpensive adapter called a reversal ring. A sense of adventure helps, too, because your camera's normal metering and focusing features don't work when the lens is attached backward.
In this course, photographer Ben Long details the tools and techniques of lens-reversal macro photography. After investigating reversal ring options, the course explores the focusing and exposure techniques involved when shooting with a reversed lens.
If you've watched my Foundations of Photography Macro course, then you've already had a little bit of exposure to lens reversal. To recap, lens reversal is simply the process of taking an ordinary lens, removing it from your camera, turning it around and holding it against the front of your camera. When you do this, you actually get a true macro level of magnification. You also lose all aperture and focus controls. The camera normally controls autofocus and aperture by communicating with the lens through these electrical contacts.
Since those contacts are disconnected, the camera can't drive either of these features. For focus, you are limited to simply moving the camera backwards and forwards, but this is how you usually focus a normal macro lens anyway. So that isn't actually that unusual. By default, the aperture on a lens is always wide open. This allows the maximum amount of light to pass through your lens and into your camera's viewfinder, ensuring that you have the best possible view of your scene. Unfortunately, this also means that you're shooting with the shallowest depth of field possible.
Now at macro distances, shallow depth of field is one of your biggest obstacles and with the aperture open all the way, you'll be facing extremely shallow depth. As you'll see later in this course, there is a way to control aperture even when the lens in reversed. Now because the camera can't communicate with the lens, you'll be handling all of your exposure manually, and we'll look into how to do that later this course. To follow along with those lessons, you need to understand the basics of exposure. So if you're not comfortable using your camera in manual mode, check out my Foundations of Photography Exposure course.
Specifically, you need to know how to set manual mode, how to change ISO and shutter speed, and how to use your camera's depth of field preview button if it has one. If it doesn't have one, then you need to know how to set your camera's shutter speed to bulb. Now obviously, when the lens is off your camera, your camera is more susceptible to sensor dust and you want to be very careful that you don't bump the inside of the mirror chamber with a finger or other foreign object. So be careful when holding the lens against the camera. Actually if you're serious about lens reversal, you're going to want to invest in a simple piece of gear that will keep you from having to hold the lens yourself and we'll look at that piece of gear in the next movie.
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