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Understanding how to shoot macro with a reversed lens

From: Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

Video: Understanding how to shoot macro with a reversed lens

So, what we're going to do in this movie may look an awful lot like a silly photographic hack. But that's only because it's a silly photographic hack. It is also, however, a completely valid, useful technique that you might already know about. Let's start with the easy version. If you have a prime lens -- that is, a lens with a single, fixed, focal length, -- get it out now. I'm going to use this 50 mm lens. Normally, of course, I would attach the lens to my camera like this. So, I'm just going to go ahead and grab my shot with it. A 50 mm lens on this camera is considered a normal lens. That means it's got roughly the same field of view as the human eye. It's a pretty wide-angle field of view. And, what I get with it is something like this. Hardly a macro shot.

Understanding how to shoot macro with a reversed lens

So, what we're going to do in this movie may look an awful lot like a silly photographic hack. But that's only because it's a silly photographic hack. It is also, however, a completely valid, useful technique that you might already know about. Let's start with the easy version. If you have a prime lens -- that is, a lens with a single, fixed, focal length, -- get it out now. I'm going to use this 50 mm lens. Normally, of course, I would attach the lens to my camera like this. So, I'm just going to go ahead and grab my shot with it. A 50 mm lens on this camera is considered a normal lens. That means it's got roughly the same field of view as the human eye. It's a pretty wide-angle field of view. And, what I get with it is something like this. Hardly a macro shot.

But now I'm going to take the lens off the camera. I'm going to turn it around, and hold it up against my camera, completely covering the mirror chamber. Now, being very careful not to drop the lens, I can frame up a shot. Check this out, though. Look at my minimum focusing distance. I came in focus. Right now, I'm much, much closer. By simply reversing my lens, I can now get macro-scale images. So, I'm going to grab a couple here. Now, as soon as I start doing what I would normally do, like half-pressing the shutter button, I find that nothing is happening.

I have no auto-focus, because I've lost all of the electrical contacts to my lens. That means I also don't have aperture control. So, I need to switch to Manual Mode. I'm going to turn from Aperture Priority, where I was before, over to Manual Mode. Now, I still can't control aperture, but I can control shutter speed. In Manual Mode, I get a normal light meter down on the bottom of my viewfinder. So, I'm just going to use that to zero in on a shutter speed. I'm at ISO 200. And, at a shutter speed of 320th, it says I've got a good shot, or at least a good exposure.

Focus, meanwhile, is what we've been doing before. It's tiny, little movements in and out. The reason I stopped talking there is that the movements are so tiny that I really need to be quiet and very precise in making just these tiny, tiny, little motions to get things in focus. So, here you can see I've got full-on, macro-scale images just by reversing my lens. Now, most of you probably have zoom lenses. In fact, the zoom lens might be all you have, especially if you are working with the camera's original kit lens.

But you are going to reverse your zoom lens, as well. I have here the Canon 24-105 mm. I'm just going to hold it up to my camera backwards, just like I did with the 50. At the moment, the lens is zoomed out all the way; it's at its shortest focal length. That's going to give me the most magnification. It's exactly backwards from what you're used to, but so is your lens, so what do you expect? So, here I am at 24, and this lens is not as fast as that 50 was in terms of minimum aperture.

So immediately, my viewfinder is a lot darker, and I need to adjust my exposure. It looks like I'm going to need an ISO change to really get anywhere. So, I'm going to go up to 800. And now, at ISO 800, it's saying a shutter speed of the 30th of a second. For hand-held shooting this close, that's going to be too slow. So, I'm going to go ahead and bump it to 1600, which should get me to a 60th of the second, which is still going to a little rough. I'm going to need to hold very still, and get a shot.

Look how much closer I am. So, it stands to reason a 50 mm got me one focal length; the 24 being wider, but reversed, gets me even closer. Now, my focusing distance changes with focal length. So, when I'm zoomed out all the way, as I am now, I can get all the way into here to focus. When I'm zoomed in, which I can do by turning my zoom ring out to 105, I can actually come back here, and get a wider shot.

That also opens up a little more light. I can speed up my shutter speed, and get that, noticing I'm still focusing, just by moving in and out. At this magnification, the actual focus ring doesn't do me good, because even a tiny change in camera position will throw my focus out of whack. And honestly, there is no way I can manage to get my hand on the focusing ring anyway. That brings up a problem here. It's difficult to hold all this stuff. It's also a little bit risky. I could drop my lens. I can stick a finger in there and damage things.

Fortunately, there's a way around that. And, that is one of these. This is a reversal ring. The way it works is, it's threaded on one side; it's got a camera mount on the other. So, I can thread the threaded side onto the front of my lens. He says, unable to thread the threaded side on to the front of lens. There we go. Now, I've got a camera mount on both ends. So, I can very easily stick this to the front of my camera. And now, my lens is mounted on backwards.

So, the good news is you've already got a very good macro lens. You just didn't know it. All you have to do is turn your lens around, and you get this fantastic macro capability. The bad news is you're going to need a little ring to make it work, and picking one of those out is going to vary from filter size, and you'd lose auto-focus, and aperture control. I have an entire little mini-course dedicated on how to just to reverse lens shooting that will show you how to get around that aperture limitation, and also give you some other important tricks for making the most out of your lens when you've got it on your camera backwards.

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This video is part of

Image for Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up
Foundations of Photography: Macro and Close-Up

47 video lessons · 15143 viewers

Ben Long
Author

 
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  1. 3m 54s
    1. Welcome
      2m 17s
    2. What you need to know for this course
      1m 37s
  2. 20m 33s
    1. What is close up?
      2m 21s
    2. Understanding minimum focus distance
      3m 55s
    3. Comparing wide lens and telephoto
      1m 55s
    4. Understanding depth of field and focus
      2m 11s
    5. Working with extension tubes
      4m 30s
    6. Working with close-up lenses
      5m 41s
  3. 28m 7s
    1. What is a macro photo?
      4m 15s
    2. Understanding how to shoot macro with a reversed lens
      5m 37s
    3. Using a point-and-shoot camera for macro
      1m 55s
    4. Working with backdrops for macro
      3m 45s
    5. Practicing macro by shooting in the kitchen
      12m 35s
  4. 58m 38s
    1. Choosing a macro lens
      2m 4s
    2. Exploring macro lens features: Focal length
      3m 16s
    3. Understanding macro lens shutter speed
      7m 6s
    4. Shooting basics with a macro lens
      8m 24s
    5. Getting closer with macro lenses and extension tubes
      11m 13s
    6. Working with depth of field and macro
      5m 1s
    7. Understanding depth and composition in macro
      6m 43s
    8. Working with subject holders and support
      6m 36s
    9. Shooting with the Canon 65 mm
      8m 15s
  5. 13m 12s
    1. Working with macro stabilizing options
      5m 45s
    2. Working with sliders for macro
      2m 44s
    3. Working with a bellows
      1m 55s
    4. Working with viewfinders in macro
      2m 48s
  6. 52m 59s
    1. Working with direct light
      6m 13s
    2. Macro and the angle of light
      2m 24s
    3. Augmenting direct light with reflectors
      6m 42s
    4. Continuous lighting to add fill to a macro shot
      5m 55s
    5. Lighting your macro scene with continuous light
      4m 50s
    6. Lighting the macro scene with strobes
      4m 59s
    7. Setting up a macro-specific flash unit
      3m 21s
    8. Shooting with the Canon Macro Twin Lite
      7m 56s
    9. Shooting macro in a light tent
      3m 31s
    10. Shooting macro on a light table
      7m 8s
  7. 19m 44s
    1. Field shooting for macro, starting at home
      7m 5s
    2. Managing backgrounds in the field
      7m 39s
    3. Shooting macro water droplets
      5m 0s
  8. 56m 19s
    1. Creating a simple manual focus stack
      4m 40s
    2. Creating a focus stacked image with manual merge
      6m 17s
    3. Creating a focus stacked image using Helicon Remote
      11m 6s
    4. Working with a StackShot rail for focus stacking
      11m 46s
    5. Merging a focus stack with Photoshop
      11m 12s
    6. Merging photo stacks with Helicon
      6m 53s
    7. Understanding the aesthetics of depth of field
      4m 25s
  9. 1m 5s
    1. Next steps
      1m 5s

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