Macro lenses are expensive, really expensive. I saved up a good year for my 100mm L series lens, and now I’m afraid to take it places due to the fact that it cost so much. It’s not a great lens to take on a backpacking trip around Asia due to it’s size, weight, and worth. I am 100% in love with the lens, and I don’t regret getting it. However, I will admit to it not being the most practical lens to buy, especially if you’re just starting out with your photography hobby (in that case I’d highly recommend a 50mm).
Taking larger than life pictures is a blast. Once you start you can’t stop, and you begin to notice things: textures, patterns, colors in a ‘closer’ way. This is macro photography. In my post earlier this week, I mentioned a tip on macro photography that said: “If you take off and flip your DSLR camera lens around backwards, you can use it to for creative macro (close up) shots.” I’ve decided to write a short and sweet tutorial on this since a few of you have asked for more details. Also, this little trick is really fun.
First of all, taking pictures with your lens detached is an actual form of art in photography called ‘freelensing.’ It makes for great tilt-shift, soft, and artistically focused photographs; a little different than the norm. By flipping your lens around (to where the front is facing your body, and the back is facing out) it magnifies the subject, allowing you to get really close.
Before snapping any pictures, set your camera mode to manual, and your lens focus to infinity. Setting your camera to manual mode is easy, but figuring out what ‘infinity’ focus is may be a little tougher. If you look down at your detachable lens, you’ll notice a gauge. If you turn your camera’s focus wheel towards the left (if your camera’s a Canon, but I assume Nikon is the same) all the way, you may notice a little infinity symbol at the end. Keep your camera’s manual dial on the infinity symbol and you’re good to go!
*if you don’t have an infinity symbol, look outside one of your windows and focus on something as far away as possible (like a distant tree line). That will be your infinity point.
Hold lens flush to your camera body, as straight on the camera lens mount as possible. Detach your lens from your camera body. It’s important that while your body is open and exposed to ‘the elements’ that you try to keep it as clean and safe as possible. No beach pictures on a windy day ok? Turn you lens around and hold it with your left hand against the body as if that’s how the lens is supposed to go (but it’s not because it clearly doesn’t screw back on).
Look through your viewfinder and move your body slightly backwards and then forwards to find your focus. This is the tricky part. It’ll take you a minute or two to figure out exactly how far away from the object you need to stand and hold the camera. My suggestion would be trying 3-6 inches if you’re using a 50mm. You don’t have automatic focusing anymore, so you’re going to have to manually move your body and camera to find the right focus. You’ll have a lot of photos that are way out of focus and slightly out of focus, but then you’ll have others that are absolutely amazing! Be patient. This isn’t a quick photography shoot.
Check your light/exposure meter and adjust your ISO and shutter speed to get the right lighting for the picture. While you’re busy figuring out the focusing, check out your light/exposure meter (the little ruler-like meter located in your viewfinder) and see where the vertical line is located. You’ll want it as close to the middle as possible, so use your little control wheel (on the Canon it’s located at the top near the shutter button) to adjust the shutter speed amount slightly. If you need to make big lighting changes you’ll have to change that ISO. Remember, outdoor photos on a sunny day are usually around 100ISO, and indoor can be anywhere from 250- ? depending on the lighting.
Take a couple pictures once you initially find your focus, then try holding the lens slightly further from the camera body for a more extreme macro picture. This is pretty self explanatory. Once you find that focus, move the camera lens out half an inch or two from the body. See the differences it makes through your viewfinder, and then experiment with tilting the lens different ways as well. You’ll notice it’s even harder to find a sharp focus, but if you’re patient (there’s that word again) and don’t breathe when you’re clicking down that shutter button, you’ll get it.
Have fun with the art of it all. Some pictures will turn out awesome. Some won’t; actually 70%+ might not work. You’ll get a lot of completely blurry shots. To help get a good picture, find a subject you enjoy, and then snap 3-6+ pictures of it from the same angle just to make sure you have a good, semi-focused shot.
Enjoy taking photos of the simple things. Have fun!