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 25, 2009 at 3:11 pm —

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

  2. November 25, 2009 at 2:42 pm —

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

  3. November 24, 2009 at 10:03 pm —

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

  4. Staci
    November 24, 2009 at 9:37 pm —

    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!

  5. November 24, 2009 at 4:21 pm —

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

  6. November 24, 2009 at 4:08 pm —

    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!

  7. November 24, 2009 at 3:15 pm —

    such a fun post!

  8. Alexa
    November 24, 2009 at 2:44 pm —

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

  9. November 24, 2009 at 2:19 pm —

    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!

  10. November 24, 2009 at 12:42 pm —

    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. 🙂

  11. November 24, 2009 at 11:51 am —

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

  12. November 24, 2009 at 11:36 am —

    Awesome! I can’t wait to try this.

  13. November 24, 2009 at 11:14 am —

    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.

  14. November 24, 2009 at 10:03 am —

    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.

  15. November 24, 2009 at 9:47 am —

    So awesome! Can’t wait to try it!

  16. Lori Lee
    November 24, 2009 at 9:29 am —

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

  17. November 24, 2009 at 8:34 am —

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

  18. November 24, 2009 at 11:17 am —

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

  19. November 24, 2009 at 9:52 am —

    I've seen this before! great stuff!

  20. November 24, 2009 at 9:31 am —

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

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Macro Photography on a Budget: Shoot Close-Up Cheaply