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How To Make Macro Photos Without Buying An Expensive Macro Lens!

Extra photos for bloggers: 1, 2, 3

Photography: it can bring people together and show us stuff that’s out of this world.

…We’ve also heard it can be a hard habit to keep up on a budget. Bummer.

Don’t get too bummed though, ’cause whether your kit contains one lens or ten, we’ve got some great news for you!

We’re going to show you how to take professional looking macro photos with the camera and lens you already have!

Read on and you’ll be making photos of all the miniature stuff in your life as fast as you can flip a lens!

How To Make Macro Photos With The Lens You Already Have


What You’ll Need:

beforeTo try this trick out, you’ll need:

  • A camera with a detachable lens
    (film or digital are both fine!)
  • Some very tiny subjects
  • A steady hand

(If your cam doesn’t have a detachable lens, why not try out our macro cell lens with your cell phone camera?)

Step 1: Remove Your Lens

beforeFirst thing’s first. You’ll have to remove your lens from your camera. (Pretend you’re about to switch lenses)

As always, when changing camera parts, make sure that you’re not in a dusty, dirty, or windy area.

Dust gets inside the tiniest cracks, so don’t remove your lens until you’re ready to start taking photos!

Step 2: Flip it!

flip your lens around!Once you’ve released the lens, flip it around, and use your hand to hold it in place.

This means the part that normally locks your lens into the camera will be facing your subject, and the part that’s normally facing outward will be pressed against your camera body.

Hold the lens tight against the opening of your camera. (Take a look at the large photo to see how snug ours was against the camera body)

Step 3: Get Closer!

Since the lens is flipped, you won’t be able to autofocus (or adjust focus manually) as you normally would.

Instead, the trick to focusing your image is to move the camera closer and closer to your subject until it pops into focus in your viewfinder.

You’ll be surprised how close your normal lens can get to such a tiny object and how much detail you’ll discover in your subject!

Step 4: Shoot!

While keeping one hand on the lens to make sure it stays secure, use your free hand to press the shutter button as soon as your subject comes into focus.

When your camera is in a programmed mode (like aperture priority, shutter speed priority, or “P”), it will do all of the metering work for you, and your photos should come out exposed well.

If you’re playing with manual mode, try different shutter speeds until you find a perfect match that makes a well exposed photo.

If your photos are coming out blurry, it could be motion blur. Try programming your camera’s ISO at a higher rating, which allows for faster shutter speeds and helps cut out blur. (Our perfect match was 1/400 of a second at 1600 ISO.)

A tripod (or Gorillapod) could also come in handy if you’re battling blur.

Step 5: Experiment!

Since you’re simply holding a lens up to your camera, it might seem like there’s not a lot you can change if you’re unhappy with your results.

Fortunately, you can get different results by trying different lenses!

You may be surprised to find the changes will be the opposite of what you’d normally expect.

With a 50mm lens, you can get macro-close to your subject, but try out a wide angle (like a 35mm) lens, and you can get even closer! (We made the example you see here with a 50mm lens for the first photo, and a 35mm lens for the closer photo of the dino eye)

Have lots of lenses? You’re in luck! Try photographing your tiny subject with every lens you have to see which one looks best!

Still want to do more?

  • Use this method as a fun DIY alternative to film scanning! Capture digital images of your film negatives and slides by holding them in front of your lens and pointing your camera towards a light source.(We used an 8mm filmstrip for the example above)
  • Make use of old manual lenses in a new way! The lens doesn’t have to fit into your camera’s lens mount, so any lens brand will work. It’s a good excuse to start collecting the old equipment that’s collecting dust at the thrift store!
  • If you want to get adventurous, try pulling the lens away from the camera body slightly to let some light ‘leak’ in for beautiful results.
  • Check out our freelensing tutorial for a ton of extra tips on how to get great photos while holding your lens on the camera manually.
  • Since you’ll be getting super close shots, try combining 2, 3, or even 10 shots for a fun, fully detailed new perspective on your subject.
  • If you want to avoid dust from getting in your camera and experiment with color at the same time, try taping some color filters to the body of your cam before you flip the lens. Then press the lens directly up against the filters while you take pics.
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