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The Poor Photographer’s Guide to Macro Photography

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If you are a new hobbyist photographer, or even a professional still struggling to afford niche lenses, you don’t need to miss out on Macro nature photography this summer? With just a inexpensive 50mm prime lens and your SLR, you’ll be photographing close-up flowers that are bold and beautiful.  And Melissa of Melissa Brewer Photography will teach you how in today’s fun post teaching you macro photography on a budget. This is a reprint of this very popular tutorial. 

The Poor Photographer’s Macro Photography Trick

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 an SLR and a prime lens. By prime lens I mean it can’t zoom in and out – I always use my trusty 50mm. All the big camera companies have a low-cost 50mm (usually a 1.8 version). This lens never fails me!

To do the 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.

The steps:

1. Start by taking off whatever lens is on your camera.

mcp-demo1 The Poor Photographer's Guide to Macro Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips
2. Then take the prime lens, such as the 50mm lens, and turn it backwards. Here’s how to hold it the “right” wrong way.

mcp-demo2 The Poor Photographer's Guide to Macro Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

3. You now have a macro lens. Warning: be careful of dust since your lens is not screwed in as it usually would be.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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 The Poor Photographer's Guide to Macro Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

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 orACR in Photoshop. I bring the exposure up, add some black, lots of contrast, and plenty of added clarity. The Grunge or Heavy Metal Lightroom presets from MCP Enlighten would be an excellent choice.  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 The Poor Photographer's Guide to Macro Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

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 The Poor Photographer's Guide to Macro Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

You can get super sharp detail images.

mcp-demo6 The Poor Photographer's Guide to Macro Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

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

mcp-demo7 The Poor Photographer's Guide to Macro Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

You can also get some great abstract shots.

mcp-demo8 The Poor Photographer's Guide to Macro Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

Another great thing to do with poor man’s macro images is to put textures on them (such as the MCP Texture Play Overlays – AVAILABLE HERE. They completely transform them. You can go from “Oh cool” to “Oh, is that a painting?”.

mcp-demo9 The Poor Photographer's Guide to Macro Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

mcp-demo10 The Poor Photographer's Guide to Macro Photography Guest Bloggers Photography Tips

So, one final note before I go. Repeating the earlier warning… 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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No Comments

  1. Southern Gal on June 8, 2015 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks! I’ve tried this before, but didn’t have all the details like you’ve outlined here. I thought I was too dumb to get it right. Now I know what I was doing wrong. Can’t wait to give it another try!

  2. Rick Ohnsman on June 10, 2015 at 11:50 pm

    I’m surprised since you taught the reversed lens trick you didn’t mention getting a reversal ring. Not only will this give you both hands free again, but it will help keep dust out of the camera. These things are cheap…usually less than $10. People will also find old film lenses which have the aperture control on the lens work way better than modern DSLR lenses with no aperture control on the lens.

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