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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.

mcp demo1 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply
Thanks dear, now turn the lens around and show all the people how to hold it the “right” wrong way.

mcp demo2 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply

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).

mcp demo3 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply

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.

mcp demo4 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply

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.

mcp demo5 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply

You can get super sharp detail images.

mcp demo6 450x301 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply

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

mcp demo7 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply

You can also get some great abstract shots.

mcp demo8 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply

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?”.

mcp demo9 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply

mcp demo10 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply

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!

 Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close Up Cheaply

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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34 Comments

  1. 1
    Diana Ornes says:

    That is really cool! Although I got some extension tubes for about 20 bucks on ebay :)

  2. 2

    I've seen this before! great stuff!

  3. 3

    what a great idea!!!! thanks!!!!

  4. 4

    [...] 3 votes vote Macro Photography on a Budget Thank you to Melissa of Melissa Brewer Photography for today’s fun post teaching you macro [...]

  5. 5
    Danielle says:

    Looks fun..I know what I’ll be trying today!

  6. 6

    [...] here to see the original:  Macro Photography on a Budget | MCP Actions Blog Tags: always-use, never-fails, prime-lens, the-f-stop, trusty « PreviousWEDDING: [...]

  7. 7
    Lori Lee says:

    HOW COOL IS THAT?! I love that idea and I will be trying this out TODAY! Thank you for posting this!

  8. 8
    Jennifer O. says:

    So awesome! Can’t wait to try it!

  9. 9
    Deirdre M. says:

    You can buy reversal rings to attach your lens to your camera backwards, which avoids dust and gives you an extra hand. I bought one off e-bay for under $8 including shipping.

  10. 10

    Thanks! I think I’ve heard of this somewhere before, but I’ve been trying to play with macros recently & got frustrated. Why didn’t I think, “just turn the lens around?” lol.

  11. 11
    Kathleen says:

    Awesome! I can’t wait to try this.

  12. 12
    Puna says:

    This is way cool. Now I just need a 50 mm lens.

  13. 13
    Sarah says:

    Very cool…I didn’t know it was that easy. Great pics too by the way! I actually do own a 1:1 macro lens (the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro) and it doubles as a GREAT portrait lens…macro lenses aren’t necessarily just for macro. :)

  14. 14

    I’ll definitely be playing around with this over the holiday! A macro lens is definitely on my wish list, but until then (10 years from now, LOL) I’ll be trying this out! :) TFS!

  15. 15
    Alexa says:

    This is really neat!! Never knew you could do this… Thanks for sharing!!!!

  16. 16
    elena w says:

    such a fun post!

  17. 17
    Teresa Sweet says:

    Great post, Melissa! I loooove my macro and they truly are worth every penny. But with that aside, I am still gonna try this with my 50mm! LOL Sounds like fun and def something new to try! Loved the humor in UR words as well ;) Hope everyone gets out and tries this as well!

  18. 18
    Alexandra says:

    The funniest part is what it’s called – poor man’s macro hahaha :) Awesome!

  19. 19
    Staci says:

    That is SO awesome! I am in the same place! I love to use macro for certain shots, but it doesn’t have a place in my business to justify the cost, either! I am so trying this! yay!

  20. 20

    Really?! Dang, I must must must go try this asap!

  21. 21
    Kristal says:

    Thankyou so much for sharing, way to much fun!
    Thanks again.

  22. 22
    Heather says:

    Holy Smokes!!! Thanks for telling me that … I had no idea! I’m off to play with my 50mm now :)

  23. 23

    [...] an itty bitty world Following a great tutorial on the poor mans macro found here at MCP Actions, I took these shots, it was getting dark and I am the worst klutz but this was soooo much [...]

  24. 24

    What a brilliant tip! LOVE this!

  25. 25
    Kerry says:

    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.

  26. 26
  27. 27
    Marsha says:

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

  28. 28
    Christine says:

    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!

  29. 29
    Kristen says:

    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!

  30. 30
    Janet Mc says:

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

  31. 31
    Elle Ticula says:

    Hey neat trick. I will be using that now. :)

  32. 32
    Amy B says:

    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!

  33. 33
    Trina says:

    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 :)

  34. 34
    Mike Eckman says:

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

  35. 35

    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.

  36. 36

    [...] my own Macro lens by using a technique called the Poor Man’s Macro.  Read all about it on MCP’s blog HERE.  I can’t declare success.  But it was better than [...]

  37. 37

    [...] is Macro.  If you don’t own a macro lens, you can always try the poor man’s macro.  MCP Actions has a great tutorial on this.   I have never tried poor man’s macro.  I am too much of a [...]

  38. 38

    [...] results. It’s not perfect, but it works and it cost me…$0. Learn more over here at the MCP blog. Interested in some free photo tips from a professional? Sign up here to unlock your download! As a [...]

  39. 39

    [...] continues with week 2. Yay! This week I was inspired by an article I read on a trick called “Poor Man’s Macro,” that I’d read about awhile back on the MCP Actions blog (one of my favorites!). See, [...]

  40. 40
    agnes says:

    awesome trick, thank you for this!

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

  41. 41
    Angie says:

    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…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  3. Its an itty bitty world « family4ever - [...] an itty bitty world Following a great tutorial on the poor mans macro found here at MCP Actions, I …
  4. Fifty-Two Fridays |Macro | Bay Area Photographer « Wendy VonSosen Photography - [...] my own Macro lens by using a technique called the Poor Man’s Macro.  Read all about it on MCP’s …
  5. Macro Photography » Dallas Frisco Photographer | High School Senior, Newborn, Baby, Child, Children - [...] is Macro.  If you don’t own a macro lens, you can always try the poor man’s macro.  MCP Actions …
  6. poor man’s macro lens | Jess Rotenberg Photography | Blog - [...] results. It’s not perfect, but it works and it cost me…$0. Learn more over here at the MCP blog. …
  7. Project 365: Week 2 | Christa Donald Photography | Weddings, Senior Portraits, Family Portraits - [...] continues with week 2. Yay! This week I was inspired by an article I read on a trick called …
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