Reversal Macro Photography

I have been experimenting with reversal macro photography.  It’s so exciting because with some relatively low cost equipment I can enter the macro world and make photographs of small things.  I love nature photography, so this gives me the chance to explore plants and small animals close up.

I like to find interesting photos in the seemingly mundane.  For example, take a look at this pot that was in my backyard.   I’m not much of a gardener so I ignored it for a year and look at what grew in it:

Weeds and Sprouts in Abandoned Planting Pot

See anything interesting there?   I saw those orange sprouts and thought they’d make a good macro photo.  Sure enough,  by reversing my lens and getting really close to those strange plants, I got this:

Reversal Macro Photography: Wild Sprouts

How did I make that photo?

My amateur equipment isn’t that fancy.  I use a Canon EOS Rebel T3i dSLR, and for these photos I used a $13 lens reversal ring with the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II Camera Lens.

It’s a little challenging because you lose the ability to auto focus and adjust aperture with the reversal lens, but it’s exciting to get the photos by using manual mode.   To focus, I just moved closer and farther away from my subject.   I actually do set the aperture but I have to do a little trick for that.  Before reversing my lens, I put my camera in aperture priority mode and adjust the aperture to what I want (usually f/5.6 or larger because if you make it too small you don’t get enough light).  Then I remove the lens while holding down the depth of field preview button.  This locks in the aperture and the aperture stays that away until I re-attach my camera lens the normal way.

To judge exposure, I use the camera’s light meter just like photographers would in olden days.   I dial the shutter speed in or change the ISO to get a good exposure.  Sometimes, I leave it on auto ISO and then set the shutter speed to something fast enough to eliminate blur.   The sprouts photo was taken at 1/125th while the flower photo below was at 1/500th.  These were all taken without a tripod.

If all of this techno talk sounds confusing, you might want to watch this course on  Lens-Reversal Macro Photography with Ben Long  That site does cost $25/month but they have a lot of photography courses and I particularly like Ben Long’s teaching style.  On other sites you often have to pay per course, but this is per month, so if you have some free time coming up, you can really get a lot of learning in for low cost.

Macro Flower Photo
Macro Flower Photo


Spider webs are good subjects to find interesting macro things.

Ant Caught in Spider Web
Ant Caught in Spider Web

One of the limitations of using a reverse lens adapter is that you have to get really close to your subject, which is hard to do if they’re living!  I mean, if they don’t fly away they might sting you!   If you’re determined to take macro photos of live insects and bugs you might need to get an actual macro lens instead.  For an idea of what you can do with an actual macro lens, take a look at these customer images on Amazon for the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens.

Flowers after a rain always look nice too.  Here’s one more macro:

Rain Droplets on Flower Petal
Rain Droplets on Flower Petal

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *