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Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close-Up Cheaply

Free Photoshop Actions and Lightroom Presets by MCP™

Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close-Up Cheaply

Macro photography on a Budget? Yes – It can be done.  And Melissa of Melissa Brewer Photography will teach you how in today’s fun post teaching you macro photography on a budget.

Hey everyone! This is a fun photography technique called “poor man’s” macro. I don’t know about you but I LOVE macro close up photography. It’s just so fun and brings things into a whole new perspective. However, I can’t justify going out and buying a macro lens. It just doesn’t have a place in my business. Never fail though, there’s a way around it for us “frugal” photographers.

First, let’s talk technical. You’re going to need a d-slr for this and a prime lens. By prime lens I mean it can’t zoom in and out. Also, it must have the f-stop controls on the lens. The lens I always use for this is my trusty 50mm. It never fails me!

Now, to do poor man’s macro all you have to do is, take your lens off, turn it around, and hold it in place. Yep. That’s it. Well, almost.

Hey there Angie, could you please take the 50mm lens off my camera.

Thanks dear, now turn the lens around and show all the people how to hold it the “right” wrong way.


Isn’t she great. Let’s move on.

You now have a macro lens. Before you start shooting you need to adjust your f-stop on your lens to where you want it. I find a good place is around f4. For your shutter speed you’re going to want something kinda quick like 1/125 or higher. We want a pretty quick speed because of how we are going to focus. Now that our lens is backwards we can’t just use our focus ring and we definitely can’t auto focus. What you have to do is get really close to your object and then slowly, I repeat SLOWLY, move forward and backward until the image is in focus. The best thing to do is just hold your shutter down as you move forward and back because you gain and lose the focus so quickly.

Now that you’ve got the shot the image must be processed. Well, if you want to go for a soft look you won’t need to but, to really get them sharp they’re going to have to be processed. Here’s an image SOOC (straight out of camera).


Of course, we can make it look better than this in camera by getting our exposure right but, the image will be lacking a lot of contrast and it will be very soft. When processing my poor man’s macro images I generally just use Lightroom or camera raw in Photoshop. I bring the exposure up, add some black, lots of contrast, and plenty of added clarity. Then, when I open the image up in Photoshop, I always run a high pass sharpen. It really helps make the lines pop! So, here’s the same image after it’s been processed.


Much better!

Poor man’s macro is a great tool to know about and you can come up with a lot of different looks with this one technique.

You can get super soft/dreamy images.


You can get super sharp detail images.


You can see tiny little flowers and objects like you’ve never seen them before.


You can also get some great abstract shots.


Another great thing to do with poor man’s macro images is to put textures on them. They completely transform them. You can go from “Oh cool” to “Oh, is that a painting?”.



So, one final note before I go. Yes, you can get dust into your camera when doing this so I don’t advise doing this somewhere windy or really dusty. Yes, you may need to clean off your lens afterwards before putting it back on your camera. Yes, it will take a minute to get a hang of. Yes, you will get addicted for a while. Yes, you can shoot things other then flowers and leaves. In fact, I encourage you to do so. Try to find things with lots of texture or abstract designs like rope, tires, or carpet. Last but not least, don’t be afraid to get down on your belly and look at the world from a whole new perspective!

And most of all have fun!

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  1. November 26, 2009 at 1:20 pm —

    What a brilliant tip! LOVE this!

  2. November 27, 2009 at 3:36 am —

    You can buy a reverse mount ring for about $10 so you don’t have to hand hold the lens. Great for getting close up newborn features (eyelashes, cowlick, etc.), too.

  3. November 27, 2009 at 12:38 pm —

    Cool trick!!

  4. November 27, 2009 at 3:42 pm —

    What a great idea! I would never have thought to do that– not in a gazillion years.

  5. November 30, 2009 at 5:14 am —

    that’s quite amazing, thank you for the tip!! i tried it just now, but with a 30mm lens. it’s really fun to play around with, unfortunately my pictures come up so dark, even at f/1.4!! i’m not too sure what i’m doing wrong, but i’ll definitely play more!

  6. November 30, 2009 at 5:22 pm —

    GET OUT! I just tried this and it’s amazing!!! And just to think I was going to drop $1000 on the new Canon L macro. WOW!

  7. December 4, 2009 at 3:35 pm —

    I LOVE this! changed my world! thank you so much!

  8. December 7, 2009 at 11:47 pm —

    Hey neat trick. I will be using that now. 🙂

  9. Amy B
    July 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm —

    you just rocked my world! I can’t wait to see what I just took! And I got lucky (kind of) when a bee landed on a flower I was looking at. Usually I scream like a little girl whenever a bee gets within 3 yards of me, but I sucked it up and did my best to take a pic before it flew away…and I ran away screaming 🙂 Thanks!

  10. July 28, 2010 at 9:07 pm —

    This is a great fix for macro. I am in a bit of a slump with my photos and this might be the change I need. Thanks for posting 🙂

  11. Mike Eckman
    January 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm —

    Did you just screw your lens into the camera backwards???? Love the results.

  12. May 5, 2011 at 11:13 am —

    you can buy a reverse ring Nikon BR-2a for only $40 or if you want to take a risk with nameless brand for $8. With reverse ring you can use a zoom camera (dont use the one that is too heavy it might damage your camera thread) if your lens doesnt have an aperture control on it, you can stuck a piece of paper to its “ring” to keep it open. And if you want to put your uv filter on your reversed lens you can buy nikon BR-3 to help attached it.

  13. agnes
    January 25, 2012 at 5:01 am —

    awesome trick, thank you for this!

    has anyone had any luck doing this with a film SLR?

  14. Angie
    June 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm —

    For a few bucks you can buy a reversing ring. It screw onto the front of a lens, and then you can remove the lens and mount it onto the camera backwards. Saves you from having to hold the lens in one hand while trying to balance a heavy camera with the other hand. Also keeps the dust from settling into your sensor. I like to use a tripod and live view on my nikon to get a nicely focused shot.
    Definitely Macro on the cheap…

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Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close-Up Cheaply