Macrophotography with a Reversed Lens

Macrophotography is close up photography, usually of very small subjects. Classically a macrophotograph is one in which the size of the subject on the negative is greater than life size. However in modern use it refers to a finished photograph of a subject at greater than life size. That’s straight from Wikipedia. I’ve always been fascinated by these larger than life close ups of small things so one of the first things I started working on with my new DSLR was Macros.

Macrophotography often requires special lenses that can focus on things that are very close. I don’t have a lens like that but I learned a couple of ways to get around that from Scott Thomas on his Views Infinitum blog. One way is to take a standard type lens and mount it on your camera body backwards using a reverse lens mounting ring. It sounds crazy but it really works! I bought one to fit my 50mm f/1.8.

Once I had the reverse lens mounting ring installed I quickly learned that it can be fairly tricky to get your subject in focus. You move the camera itself closer to and further away from the subject to adjust focus. After a few tries I was able to make a few shots of various things that were mostly in focus.

Juniper Macro made with Reverse Lens Technique

Juniper Macro made with Reverse Lens Technique

As you can see in the Juniper shot above, the depth of field is tiny, maybe 1/4 inch or less! I realized that I needed to adjust my aperture or f-stop to a higher number or smaller setting to increase the depth of field. With your lens mounted backwards you can’t adjust your aperture electronically like you normally would because the electronics of your lens are not connected to your camera body. In fact, my D7000 says the aperture setting is Zero when I have my lens reversed! Fortunately, my 50mm f/1.8 features a manual aperture setting so I can make adjustments even when the lens is reversed. At f/22, the smallest setting, the depth of field is better, maybe 7/8ths of an inch or so. Still tiny but better than before. The trouble is, at the tiny f/22 aperture setting, it’s so dark that you can’t see enough through the view finder to get the focus right. So, what I figured out to do is turn on my flash so there will be enough light for a good exposure even at f/22. Then set the aperture to f/1.8 so I can see enough to get my subject into focus. Then, while holding still so as not to mess up the focus, turn the manual aperture setting from f/1.8 to f/22 to increase the depth of field. Once all this is done, I would fire away and if I was able to make this happen without accidentally moving the camera out of focus the results can be really something!

Ribbon with Water Drops Reverse Lens Macro

Ribbon with Water Drops Reverse Lens Macro

Scott Thomas made a ribbon and water drops Reverse Lens Macro photo that was very similar to this one and posted it on his blog. This was my attempt to duplicate it.

Banana Stem Reverse Lens Macro

Banana Stem Reverse Lens Macro

This up close look at a Banana Stem partially torn away by removing a banana or two is interesting looking.

Rose Reverse Lens Macro

Rose Reverse Lens Macro

What a beautiful Rose! This is my favorite macrophotograph that I’ve made so far.

When spring rolls around, I hope to make some macro shots of some assorted bugs. That should be interesting.

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8 Responses to Macrophotography with a Reversed Lens

  1. John Aldrich says:

    Very nice, Phil. I still think I”ll stick with macro filters, though… much easier to deal with. 😀

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