Use a reverse lens for macro

Rebecca Greig

Learn how attaching your lens the other way can open up a new world of close-up photography


By mounting a lens backwards onto your camera via an inexpensive adaptor, it’s possible to turn almost any lens into one suitable for macro photography. Despite often being referred to as the ‘poor man’s macro’, this technique can be used to capture images beyond the reach of even a dedicated macro lens.

In using a lens like this, you will lose all the electronic functions. This means no autofocus, and more importantly, no aperture control. Choosing a lens with manual aperture control means that you are not restricted to shooting wide open and can capture the depth of field necessary for small subjects. Because you’re attaching the lens via its filter thread instead of the mount, it’s possible to use lenses that would not normally be compatible with your camera brand.

Focusing with a lens mounted in such a way is easily achieved by moving your camera closer to your subject. When relying on natural light, this approach requires a sturdy tripod. By using a flash it’s possible to shoot handheld, which not only makes focusing easier, but also greatly reduces the chance of camera shake.
Many cameras struggle to correctly meter when a lens is used in this way. To get accurate exposures you’ll need to shoot in manual mode.


1  Mount your lens In order to mount your lens backwards you will need an adaptor that matches your camera mount with a thread for the lens you intend to use. These can be picked up relatively inexpensively online.


2  Set your aperture With a manual aperture ring you will be able to keep the lens wide open for focusng before stopping down to take the photograph. Remember to meter for the smallest aperture setting.


3  Manual mode To achieve an accurate exposure, you’ll need to set your camera to manual mode. Your camera will likely give an aperture reading of zero, so don’t be put off by this while setting your exposure.


4  Focus your scene Working distances and depth of field are both very small when working with a lens in this way. To accurately focus, simply move your whole camera closer to your subject.


5  Choose your lighting Using flash to expose your photographs will allow you to easily control the lighting and also freeze movement. If you’re using natural light you’ll need a sturdy tripod to reduce camera shake.

ip_reverse_macro_playbackacro, reverse

6  Take the shot Focusing and composition are difficult to get accurate every time, especially when working handheld. Take plenty of pictures and keep reviewing them to check for the correct exposure.

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