How to Shoot Super Macro Photos - Digital Photography School

How to Shoot Super Macro Photos

super-macro.png

In this post, professional photographer Yanik Chauvin from Yanik’s Photo School shows us how to take stunning super macro photos.

I’m a big fan of macro photography. So much so that when I chose my first ever digital camera, the Nikon Coolpix 4500, it was mostly base on its macro capabilities. And when I purchased my Nikon D70 with kit lens, the next lens in my bag was the Sigma 105mm macro.

After shooting lots of macros, I wanted to push the envelope and see if there was a way to get even closer to my subject (without the need for a microscope). Looking on the net, I found a photographer who did just that! Boy was I a happy camper. I have since been using this technique called “Super Macro” to take some pretty amazing photography.

Ok, before I get into the “how to”, let me first give you a brief explanation of what macro is. It’s basically close-up photography where the image projected on the camera sensor is relatively the same size as your subject. We give this term a ratio of 1:1. Most standard macro lenses give you up to 1:1 ratio. As for super macro, depending on your lens combination, you can usually get a ratio of 2:1 or greater. What this means is that your sensor sees closer than the human eye which leads to some unusual photography.

Equipment

Alright! Let’s look at what we need to achieve super macro photos.

  • A macro lens (ideally a prime lens)
  • A fast lens (ideally a prime lens with f1.8 or f1.4)
  • A step-down ring
  • A portable flash
  • A tripod

super-macro-equipment.jpg

The reasons why I suggest prime lenses is that they’re the sharpest lenses and when you’re staking that much glass in front of your sensor, things then to go soft very fast. The step-down ring should match your lenses’ respective diameters.

There are other ways to setup for super macros, some using extension tubes or teleconverters, but I wanted to keep it simple.

Setup

Now, let’s make it work.

Step 1: Put the macro lens on the camera (in my case it’s the Sigma 105mm)

Step2 : Make sure your lens is on manual focus

Step 3 : Screw the step-down ring onto the macro lens

Step 4 : Turn the aperture dial on your fast lens (in my case it’s the Nikkor 50mm) to it’s widest setting (smallest f-stop #). We need as much light as possible getting in.

Step 5 : Screw the front of the fast lens onto the front of the macro lens.

Step 6 : Put your camera on manual focus

This is what the setup should look like.

super-macro-setup.jpg

The reason I added the tripod and the flash in the equipment list is that, since there isn’t a lot of light making it to the sensor, you’ll either need a long shutter speed or more light.

You’ll notice that your depth of field (DOF) is extremely small (roughly 1 or 2mm) so things get blurry very fast. Make sure your subject isn’t moving or else you’ll be out of focus. If you insist on doing this hand held, exhale before you press the trigger… you might get lucky. ;-)

Being so close and having such a small DOF is a great combination for fun abstract photography. Use you imagination and have fun!

As for the flash, you’ll have to trigger it off camera because of the length of the combined lenses and the proximity of the subject to the lenses.

Here are some samples images as examples.

super-macro-1.jpg

Morning frost on my canoe.

super-macro-2.jpg

Orange Hawkweed

super-macro-3.jpg

Daisy

super-macro-4.jpg

Wolf Spider (if you look close enough, you’ll see my lens in its eyes!)

Try Yanik’s technique and then share your Super Macro Images in the Share Your Shots section of our forum.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like...

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • Louis-Albert Ducharme

    I am a beginner. But very interested about macro and especially super macro.
    So
    I have a question: the distal lens is reversed. So iti is exposed to elements (dust, etc.). Do you have any sduggestions, ex. something to cover this area. (I saw this comment elsewhere but with NO answer)?

    Thanks

    Louis from NB, Canada

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellie_pryadh/ Ellie

    I am a Macro enthusiast and have recently been using 105mm lens.. some of my shots are ok but I still want to learn how to make it better. Any suggestion what would make a clear and better macro using that lens? What kind of accessories do I need to use? Check out my macro shots on my Flickr page.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellie_pryadh/ Ellie

    I am a Macro enthusiast and have recently been using 105mm lens.. some of my shots are ok but I still want to learn how to make it better. Any suggestion what would make a clear and better macro using that lens? What kind of accessories do I need to use? Check out my macro shots on my Flickr page.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellie_pryadh/

  • marlon maramba

    Hi! What a fantastic photos you’ve got there! I’ve got a sony alpha200. Do you think it’s possible to shoot a macro with this kind of camera? What sort of lens do you think i need with these kind of camera? Thanks alot!

    kind regards,

    marloncm

  • Caleb

    i love doing macro and since i cant afford a nice macro lens for my canon so i have found a poor stupid mans macro lens… i take my 1.8 50mm and turn it around and hold the lens to the body and shoot. its not good for the sensor but i dont shoot a lot of macro this way i use my canon S5 with its built in super-macro setting witch is wicked good

  • Tyler Hartl

    Actually – I haven’t read it in here but it appears that everyone is missing it.

    It is not called a stop down or a reversing ring. Its called a coupler or a male to male coupler.

    You can get even closer if you get a reversing ring – which would have the camer lens mount on one side and then filter threads on the other. Extension tubes and bellows also get you even closer.

    So instead of holding your lens – you can get a coupler. $5-$20 bucks – have you a ton of effort.

  • http://www.jamesandrewsphotography.com James Andrews

    Here’s my question.

    I have a Canon Rebel XTi with 2 EOS lenses. The aperture is controlled electronically, so on the fastest lens, do I put it on the camera first and open up the aperture, then take it off and couple it?

  • Danny De Backer

    I am experimenting now for two years with super macro photography. I tried all possible solutions with my Olympus E-510 in the beginning and now with an E-30. I tried Raynox DCR-250 and MSN-202 and got 4X magnification with a standard 40-150 mm in combination with two flashes FL-36. Incovenience: you have to go very close 3 cm. I bought a 35 mm Zuiko lens and a 2X converter. 2X magnification with AF; but still 3 cm distance. I decided to buy an Sigma 150 mm macro lensand could obtzin the same results at a distance of 20 cm!
    I wanted more magniification and added an reverse Canon 50 mm lens and obtain a 6X magnifation (with the 2X converter).The quality is eally good but again the distance is 2 cm (difficult to use two flashes but not impossible).
    My last and best experiment is with an Rodenstock Rodagon lens instead oa Canon 50 mm. The distance to the subject was 10 cm !! with an excellent quality and and a magnification of 3X and 6X with the 2X converter.
    In my opinion this thge best possible solution for me 3 mm full screen in top quality and at a distance of 10 cm.

  • Brad Verneau

    Great post Yanik! Thanks for the info. I have one question. I’ll be using the exact same lens configuration and I was wondering what size ring to get. Thanks in advance for the additional help.

  • Danny De Backer

    I use step-down rings from 72 mm to 49 mm and pne reverse ring of 49 mm and put the Rodenstock reverse on the Sigma 150 mm. The step I use five step-down rings to go from 72 to 49 mm. (5 Euro a piece available in every photoshop).

  • http://www.aphoto4you.com aphoto4you

    I am trying to set this up….How many step down rings will i need for my Nikon 105 mm prime macro lens and nikon 50 mm wide apperture lens..This tutorial is very interestrting and i am willing to try..Thank u much

  • Danny De Backer

    After experimenting with macro gear of all kind i ended up with the following gear:
    camera Olympus E-30 (sensor 3/4 2X magnification) a Sigma 150 mm macro lens a 2X Olympus converter and a prime lens Mamiya 55 mm mounted inverse on the Sigma.
    Two flashes Olympus FL-30 (wireless) mounted on a Novoflex XX-Halter.
    The photographs have a magnification of 12X!! ( aperure 16 to 22) 1/250 ISO 200.
    (ISO 1600 is possible with Topaz Dnoise4)
    As an alternative for the Mamiya 55 I sometimes use also an Rodenstock Rodagon 105 mm.
    To achieve more depth of fiels I sometimes use Focus stacking.
    I hope this comment will help some people looking for the ultimate macro.
    Danny

  • hanan

    Hi.
    I’m using Nikon 105mm and 50mm with bower 62-52mm ring and male to male ring.
    My problem is that after many trials I couldn’t focus on anything…
    Any idea?
    Thanks!

  • hanan

    I’m using Nikon 105mm with 50mm and I can’t focus
    Any idea?

  • Ken Welch

    Awesome stuff, I’m saving for a EF180mm f3/5L USM Macro and the MP-E 65 1-5x USM Macro. I was at work last night thinking about different things to shoot coz I had a right run around trying to get a bee lol, and I thought fungi and mushrooms, this was the first site I opened. Glad I did, its great! Thankyou DPS :)

  • Elaine

    Hello
    I have a 50mm lens, also a macro lens 105, what size step up lens would I want, can you please pass on the info by mail

    Elaine

  • richarquis

    For those interested in a good macro lens, I got a Sigma 105 EX, f2.8, http://www.the-digital-picture.com/reviews/Sigma-105mm-f-2.8-EX-DG-Macro-Lens-Review.aspx , and I love it to bits. Very clear shots, I can crop in and clearly make out individual hairs on a bees head and abdomen, even when the shot was taken from up to a metre away. It does have some trouble auto focusing sometimes, depending on your subject, but manual focus is smooth enough to work around that. Not too heavy, and reasonably fast, so it’s ok in low light. Just make sure to check with the seller that it has the correct mount for your camera. (They make them with both Canon and Nikon, possibly others too, though I don’t know for sure.)

  • Beginner

    Hi,

    I have a step down ring and a reverse ring to connect canon 100mm macro with canon 50 mm (1/4). I am not able to focus on anything. I just see color patches. I have everything set as you suggested. But it is not working. Please suggest. I really want to try and succeed in this technique.

    Regards
    NA

  • Patricia

    Thank-you for the information on Macro Photography. I really want to try it after I acquire the correct lens.

  • James

    I’m an A Level student studying Photography and really find Macro photography and nature is becoming my favorite aspect of photography. I will definitely try out these techniques in the future Thanks :D

  • http://none.com DJ_BIG

    Ebay has the lens reverse adapter rings for $3! Just search your camera brand, lens filter size, and the words reverse adapter. For example I searched “Nikon 52mm reverse adapter” and clicked on the second listing. It’s cheap, all metal and should be a cheap way to get macro from a prime lens.

  • http://www.midnightrook.blogspot.com Jean-Pierre
  • http://thecomiso.us/ jones

    thank a lot .this technic for take a photo is great

  • david

    what are the general guidelines focus settings on both lenses?

  • William Groce

    I’m trying to find a lens reversal ring for my Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS. I’ve bought a 58mm one off ebay but it did not fit the body of the camera. I’ve try & try to find out what will fit with no success. Can you help me please? William Groce.

  • Tab

    Look on http://www.amazon.com for Fotodiox Macro Reverse Ring Camera Mount Adapter for Canon EOS Camera with 58mm Filter Thread Lens

  • http://www.nomadtravellers.com/ Nomad Travel

    Clearly the dof is putting a big limit, but for such a a cheap adapter it’s worth a try

  • Lindsey

    Where can I find a step-down ring? How do I know what size I need it to step down to? I have searched but can’t find anything that indicates what size I would need for canon mount……

  • A.D.

    try at b and h photo .com

  • Gary Bridger

    WH not use exension tubes ? with 60m macro 2.9 or a 100 m macro , its not the shooting i am after its the sunning difinition and how to do the post processing , that makes this winning shots.

  • Mike Wiggins

    I’ve been using a bellows with a Rodenstock Apo-Rodagon D 75 mm lens for macro photography of coins for a couple of years. I’m happy with the images but was wondering if the Sigma 105 mm macro lens with a reversed 50mm 1.4 lens would give me improved magnification.

    Love your site by the way!

  • WILLIAM PERRELLI

    This was with a 60mm Canon macro on a 50d.

  • WILLIAM PERRELLI

    Canon 5dm2 and a 100mm 2.8 macro, I believe?

  • Angela

    I bought a step down ring for my 105 sigma to the 50 Nikon and it did not work? It was a 58-52 step down. Is there something I’m missing as the 50mm wouldn’t screw on.

  • Mike W

    My sigma 105 mm has 62 mm threads. I use a 62-52 reversing ring to attach other lenses. Reversing ring has male threads going both ways. Step down ring has female one way and male the other, won’t work.

  • Angela

    Thank you

  • Sunny16

    You can use a wider lens at the end of your bellow (35, 28, 20mm):
    the wider the lens, greater is the magnification.
    I have great results with Voightlander 20/3.5 pancake lens. I also use it reversed on a vintage 80-200 4.5 AI but with less room to manage lighting.

  • Sunny16

    For best results you have to stack your images. I bought a cheap micro-stage on fleaBay and move the subject a few microns for each shot. Some stacks run pass a hundred shots… Photoshop have some built-in stacking process but you can find a lot of other options.

Some older comments

  • david

    January 11, 2013 05:30 am

    what are the general guidelines focus settings on both lenses?

  • jones

    December 12, 2012 07:24 pm

    thank a lot .this technic for take a photo is great

  • Jean-Pierre

    May 1, 2012 11:18 pm

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/45517597@N07/

  • DJ_BIG

    March 4, 2012 03:34 pm

    Ebay has the lens reverse adapter rings for $3! Just search your camera brand, lens filter size, and the words reverse adapter. For example I searched "Nikon 52mm reverse adapter" and clicked on the second listing. It's cheap, all metal and should be a cheap way to get macro from a prime lens.

  • James

    November 8, 2011 09:18 pm

    I'm an A Level student studying Photography and really find Macro photography and nature is becoming my favorite aspect of photography. I will definitely try out these techniques in the future Thanks :D

  • Patricia

    October 2, 2011 03:07 pm

    Thank-you for the information on Macro Photography. I really want to try it after I acquire the correct lens.

  • Beginner

    June 14, 2011 11:17 am

    Hi,

    I have a step down ring and a reverse ring to connect canon 100mm macro with canon 50 mm (1/4). I am not able to focus on anything. I just see color patches. I have everything set as you suggested. But it is not working. Please suggest. I really want to try and succeed in this technique.

    Regards
    NA

  • richarquis

    April 27, 2011 05:39 pm

    For those interested in a good macro lens, I got a Sigma 105 EX, f2.8, http://www.the-digital-picture.com/reviews/Sigma-105mm-f-2.8-EX-DG-Macro-Lens-Review.aspx , and I love it to bits. Very clear shots, I can crop in and clearly make out individual hairs on a bees head and abdomen, even when the shot was taken from up to a metre away. It does have some trouble auto focusing sometimes, depending on your subject, but manual focus is smooth enough to work around that. Not too heavy, and reasonably fast, so it's ok in low light. Just make sure to check with the seller that it has the correct mount for your camera. (They make them with both Canon and Nikon, possibly others too, though I don't know for sure.)

  • Elaine

    March 24, 2011 07:56 pm

    Hello
    I have a 50mm lens, also a macro lens 105, what size step up lens would I want, can you please pass on the info by mail

    Elaine

  • Ken Welch

    November 19, 2010 04:48 am

    Awesome stuff, I'm saving for a EF180mm f3/5L USM Macro and the MP-E 65 1-5x USM Macro. I was at work last night thinking about different things to shoot coz I had a right run around trying to get a bee lol, and I thought fungi and mushrooms, this was the first site I opened. Glad I did, its great! Thankyou DPS :)

  • hanan

    September 12, 2010 05:57 pm

    I'm using Nikon 105mm with 50mm and I can't focus
    Any idea?

  • hanan

    September 11, 2010 08:37 pm

    Hi.
    I'm using Nikon 105mm and 50mm with bower 62-52mm ring and male to male ring.
    My problem is that after many trials I couldn't focus on anything...
    Any idea?
    Thanks!

  • Danny De Backer

    July 28, 2010 07:11 pm

    After experimenting with macro gear of all kind i ended up with the following gear:
    camera Olympus E-30 (sensor 3/4 2X magnification) a Sigma 150 mm macro lens a 2X Olympus converter and a prime lens Mamiya 55 mm mounted inverse on the Sigma.
    Two flashes Olympus FL-30 (wireless) mounted on a Novoflex XX-Halter.
    The photographs have a magnification of 12X!! ( aperure 16 to 22) 1/250 ISO 200.
    (ISO 1600 is possible with Topaz Dnoise4)
    As an alternative for the Mamiya 55 I sometimes use also an Rodenstock Rodagon 105 mm.
    To achieve more depth of fiels I sometimes use Focus stacking.
    I hope this comment will help some people looking for the ultimate macro.
    Danny

  • aphoto4you

    July 25, 2010 11:43 am

    I am trying to set this up....How many step down rings will i need for my Nikon 105 mm prime macro lens and nikon 50 mm wide apperture lens..This tutorial is very interestrting and i am willing to try..Thank u much

  • Danny De Backer

    February 23, 2010 05:43 pm

    I use step-down rings from 72 mm to 49 mm and pne reverse ring of 49 mm and put the Rodenstock reverse on the Sigma 150 mm. The step I use five step-down rings to go from 72 to 49 mm. (5 Euro a piece available in every photoshop).

  • Brad Verneau

    February 23, 2010 02:03 pm

    Great post Yanik! Thanks for the info. I have one question. I'll be using the exact same lens configuration and I was wondering what size ring to get. Thanks in advance for the additional help.

  • Danny De Backer

    February 23, 2010 04:08 am

    I am experimenting now for two years with super macro photography. I tried all possible solutions with my Olympus E-510 in the beginning and now with an E-30. I tried Raynox DCR-250 and MSN-202 and got 4X magnification with a standard 40-150 mm in combination with two flashes FL-36. Incovenience: you have to go very close 3 cm. I bought a 35 mm Zuiko lens and a 2X converter. 2X magnification with AF; but still 3 cm distance. I decided to buy an Sigma 150 mm macro lensand could obtzin the same results at a distance of 20 cm!
    I wanted more magniification and added an reverse Canon 50 mm lens and obtain a 6X magnifation (with the 2X converter).The quality is eally good but again the distance is 2 cm (difficult to use two flashes but not impossible).
    My last and best experiment is with an Rodenstock Rodagon lens instead oa Canon 50 mm. The distance to the subject was 10 cm !! with an excellent quality and and a magnification of 3X and 6X with the 2X converter.
    In my opinion this thge best possible solution for me 3 mm full screen in top quality and at a distance of 10 cm.

  • James Andrews

    January 11, 2010 03:23 pm

    Here's my question.

    I have a Canon Rebel XTi with 2 EOS lenses. The aperture is controlled electronically, so on the fastest lens, do I put it on the camera first and open up the aperture, then take it off and couple it?

  • Tyler Hartl

    November 22, 2009 03:42 pm

    Actually - I haven't read it in here but it appears that everyone is missing it.

    It is not called a stop down or a reversing ring. Its called a coupler or a male to male coupler.

    You can get even closer if you get a reversing ring - which would have the camer lens mount on one side and then filter threads on the other. Extension tubes and bellows also get you even closer.

    So instead of holding your lens - you can get a coupler. $5-$20 bucks - have you a ton of effort.

  • Caleb

    July 24, 2009 04:38 pm

    i love doing macro and since i cant afford a nice macro lens for my canon so i have found a poor stupid mans macro lens... i take my 1.8 50mm and turn it around and hold the lens to the body and shoot. its not good for the sensor but i dont shoot a lot of macro this way i use my canon S5 with its built in super-macro setting witch is wicked good

  • marlon maramba

    July 23, 2009 10:18 am

    Hi! What a fantastic photos you've got there! I've got a sony alpha200. Do you think it's possible to shoot a macro with this kind of camera? What sort of lens do you think i need with these kind of camera? Thanks alot!

    kind regards,

    marloncm

  • Ellie

    June 9, 2009 10:43 am

    I am a Macro enthusiast and have recently been using 105mm lens.. some of my shots are ok but I still want to learn how to make it better. Any suggestion what would make a clear and better macro using that lens? What kind of accessories do I need to use? Check out my macro shots on my Flickr page.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ellie_pryadh/

  • Ellie

    June 9, 2009 10:39 am

    I am a Macro enthusiast and have recently been using 105mm lens.. some of my shots are ok but I still want to learn how to make it better. Any suggestion what would make a clear and better macro using that lens? What kind of accessories do I need to use? Check out my macro shots on my Flickr page.

  • Louis-Albert Ducharme

    May 25, 2009 10:51 am

    I am a beginner. But very interested about macro and especially super macro.
    So
    I have a question: the distal lens is reversed. So iti is exposed to elements (dust, etc.). Do you have any sduggestions, ex. something to cover this area. (I saw this comment elsewhere but with NO answer)?

    Thanks

    Louis from NB, Canada

  • jerosel

    May 16, 2009 07:15 am

    @ramasubramaniyan

  • Ramasubramaniyan

    May 1, 2009 12:30 pm

    Thats an interesting experiment. But I have one doubt here.
    I am having an Olympus Zuiko Digital 14-42mm kit lens for a wide angle. There is not aperture dial in lens itself, as you have mentioned in your Nikkor 50mm. How to set it for Aperture in that case?

  • Johan

    April 22, 2009 09:12 am

    i did a graphics card with this tecnique check it out!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/22561181@N07/3463317157/

  • paul

    March 27, 2009 09:08 am

    i'm not sure about this one. is it still called step down ring? i think it needs male rings in both ends. isn't it? please answer me back on this.

  • Flores

    March 25, 2009 05:13 pm

    I guess the pros do not really need any tricks or tips, as their levels are up on top. I guess those amateurs like me who are most in need of tips or tricks. Unfortunately, most of the articles in this websites are for the Pros with their sophisticated digital cameras. For us who are just ordinary and amateur photographers with point and shoot digital camera, to achieve such as yours perhaps only a dream. I just have canon S5IS, and I can shoot a macro good enough for my level of photography, anyway. I wish there are more articles for the ordinary and amateur photographers. God bless!

  • Ellie

    February 9, 2009 11:56 am

    Hi
    What would be the best wide aperture lens for my Canon EOS40D, what is the price.. approximately , I'm using Sigma 17-70MM Macro.
    Thanks

  • Teddy

    November 26, 2008 01:30 pm

    @AutumnBerry : You should use manual focus with forward and backward, and Far the subject and with your outer lens its about 2-4cm or about 1 inch.

    :( sorry my bad english....

  • AutumnBerry

    November 25, 2008 05:12 pm

    Okay, so I bought the reversing ring, did the exact setup as above, I have a Canon Xti, 100mm F2.8 Macro lens and a 50mm F1.8 lens. I put everything to manual focus, but for the life of me, I cannot get any focus, I only get a whole bunch of blur! Any suggestions?

  • Olapade Sheriff

    November 12, 2008 09:33 am

    your tips are very useful to me…i am using nikon d 70s with 18-70mm kit lens and nikon 55mm macro lens.perhaps you can see my photos in my flickr. I also haue site on digital photgraphy. here is my website where to learn alot about your digital photography, www.digitalphotographyportals.blogspot.com

  • Teddy

    November 11, 2008 05:33 pm

    aha... nice tips... i also have super macro, but i called it "Extreme Macro", i use pocket camera and reversed lens...

    Here is my extreme macro http://teddywidhi.multiply.com/photos/album/1/Macro_Photography_using_Digicam_Pocket_Reversed_Lens

    and

    http://teddywidhi.multiply.com/photos/album/2/Makro_Flora

  • Adam P

    November 11, 2008 12:25 pm

    I found this article very helpful! I started playing with the Super Macro setup, my 18-135 and 50mm lens and works well! I don't have the reduction ring or any other ring, so I just held the 50mm lend up to the 18-135mm lens set at about 58mm and this is what I got:

    http://www.photographypad.com/Site/My_Albums/Pages/Super_Macro.html#0

  • luqman

    November 11, 2008 02:47 am

    i also love macro..your tips are very useful to me...i am using nikon d 70s with 18-70mm kit lens and nikon 55mm macro lens.perhaps you can see my photos in my flickr. here is my website http://flickr.com/photos/luqman_3g/

  • Scott Holder

    November 9, 2008 09:52 am

    How did you get the spider to sit still for the photo?

  • Jeff

    November 9, 2008 09:40 am

    Macro needs a lot of light to get an image to the sensor/film. A technique for setting a correct ( or a very close) exposure first up is a small piece of maths used by large format photographers for years. It is a way of calculating the exposure based on the bellows extension of the camera or in this case where most of you are using SLR/DSLR or Medium Format cameras barrel extension.

    1. Take you exposure reading and establish what F stop you are getting.
    2. What is the total focal lengths of you combined lenses at infinity.
    3. What is the total focal length once you have focused on you subject. This will be significantly longer than focal length in No.2.

    The maths goes something like this;

    Multiply the F No. by the Focal length of the lens(s) being used then divide them by the total length of the bellows (barrel) extension.

    F No. x Focal Length
    divided by
    Total Bellows (Barrel) Extension.

    This calculation will give you the exposure correction you need to make an accurate exposure.

    or for the digital world keep burning more light in until it looks good on the sensor.

    Yeah I know this is how most of us work these days.

    The extension calculation is still useful because you can pre-calculate the exposure factor correction(s) you will need at various extensions before you set up. This will allow you to work out what lighting gear will be needed to get that pic.

    Happy hunting.

    Jeff

  • Daniel Condurachi

    November 8, 2008 06:36 pm

    A few days ago I bought 3 rings converters to put between my camera and the lens. It's the most efficient (results/price) investment I've done lately. The results are amazing (for me)

  • Cinnamon

    November 8, 2008 04:11 pm

    Incredible.....is all I can say! These pics are just incredible...can't wait to upgrade to all these goodies to try this out!! :)

  • Mandy

    November 8, 2008 06:57 am

    I think that shot of the spider is amazing but my favourite has to be the daisy...

  • kimrose

    November 8, 2008 04:13 am

    wow, very interesting! and thank you for the inspiration :) Just bought a ring off ebay so I can try this!! sooo excited!

  • Steven

    November 8, 2008 01:36 am

    Darren,

    Very good primer on Macro photography. I myself need to get a step down ring
    to try this myself.

  • Fernando

    November 8, 2008 01:23 am

    Hello thank you for the tips
    That you design you give me to improve the photos macro taken with my Coolpix P80...

    Fernando

  • Marie

    November 8, 2008 01:14 am

    Hi Pete,
    I'm new to macrophotography, I liked it with my first photshoot of a bee. Your article is a great reference mand guide to newcomers of macrophotgraphy!

  • Noir

    November 8, 2008 12:43 am

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but shouldn't you use LESS apperture due to the very narrow DOF that inversing lenses give?

  • christine

    November 8, 2008 12:36 am

    I love your pictures and thank you for the tutorial. I can't believe you got that close to a wolf spider, that's just frickin' nutz. Yikes, great shot though and it looks like it was worth it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Image-Y

    November 8, 2008 12:08 am

    As mentioned by Eduardo Perez & W4yne, however you want to call the ring, what's important is that you have a MALE-MALE tread. :)

  • cagey

    November 7, 2008 11:48 pm

    Beautiful shots! Makes me wish I had a nice camera.

    Also, as an invertebrate enthusiast, I can tell you that the spider is most likely a jumping spider - they tend to have the to "big" eyes in front like that. Great shot! I am jealous - we have a tarantula and I really struggle trying to get good shots of her.

  • Stavros Markopoulos

    November 7, 2008 06:44 pm

    Well done. Thats a very detailed description on the technique and some wonderful results you got (I really love the first photo of the morning frost!).

    I've successfully used this technique in the past and documented it on this photo of the final setup:
    http://flickr.com/photos/markop/500013141/

    Photos I've shot this way:
    http://flickr.com/search/?q=58mmto52mmreverselenscoupler&w=91116392@N00&m=tags&s=int

  • Max

    November 7, 2008 02:22 pm

    Awesome photos! Thanks to all for sharing them along with your techniques. Here is yet another approach that yields great depth of field -- Bob Frank's http://www.bugmacros.com/
    Max

  • Jeff

    November 7, 2008 10:57 am

    It seems that many people reading this article may not be ready to spend 500 dollars or more on a macro lens. Although the following method won't get you into *super* macro photography, it will get you to 1:1 or close to it for a fraction of the cost of a true macro lens...

    Materials...
    Nikon 50mm f1.8 ~ $100
    Nikon BR-2A Lens Reversing Ring ~ $30
    52mm +4 close up diopter - $25

    Method...
    Attach diopter to lens threads, then reversal ring to diopter threads, attach other side of reversal ring to camera body, congrats: now your camera looks weirder

    Pros...
    Start taking sweet macro photos for $55 dollars (if you already have the 50mm prime.)

    Cons...
    Everything has to be done manually: focusing, manual exposure. You can't meter through this setup.
    Even with your lens stopped down to f16 or f22 the depth of field will be insanely shallow. You will find that its easier to move your subject than your camera. You will want a tripod, and a flash. This isn't a replacement for a $700 macro lens, but its a great alternative for someone on a budget that would like to try their hand at macro photography and see if its something they enjoy.

    Notes...
    You can stack more than one close up diopter but image quality will get much softer. Unless you're outside on a sunny day, your viewfinder will be frustratingly dark at f22 and you will probably want to break things.

  • Les Stockton

    November 7, 2008 10:31 am

    I love this technique, but moreso that you were able to document the setup so well and each step. It allows the person who has never done this before to know little things. You explained it so well and made the procedure so simple.
    Great job.

  • Alex

    November 7, 2008 09:28 am

    Great article, but did anybody else read it as "How to Shoot Super Mario Bros."?

  • Scott Fillmer

    November 7, 2008 08:09 am

    thanks for that how to, great stuff. I use the nikon 105mm macro and also attach a closeup filter when needed, but I do have the nikon pk-12 and pk-13 extension tubes which I haven't used to much, but should try out. Cool stuff, I love macro, wish I did more of that type of photography.

    p.s. - if anyone is really really serious about doing great macro, nikon makes the 200mm f/4 which is (for macro) as good as it gets (IMO).

  • yuki

    November 7, 2008 08:08 am

    great tips, cant wait to try it. although i do have one question. i dont quite understand on where to position the flash.
    do i have to attach it to the hot shoe on my dslr or is it better to have it as a slave?

    thanks in advance

  • Chris

    November 7, 2008 05:33 am

    Just a quick update... my D70 DSLR is a Nikon. Best investment I've made in a long time. The quality shots are with the Manual setting though. Haven't been able to get the same quality with the automatic settings. Can't wait to try Macro again. :-)
    Chris

  • Chris

    November 7, 2008 05:30 am

    Great article. Thanks for sending it. I used to stack lenses and use diopters with my Olympus 35mm OM-1n and now have a D-70 DSLR with the 18-70 mm Zoom lens. Would it work to put a 105mm Macro lens on the front of my zoom lens and do some macro work? I really miss doing macro shots, but haven't invested in a second lens yet. Is the 105 mm Sigma lens you purchased a good one (even without stacking the lenses)? Keep up the really interesting articles. They are appreciated.

    Chris

  • Harley Pebley

    November 7, 2008 05:13 am

    Andrew: I have a set of diopters, not the cheapest, but not the most expensive either. The problem I've run into is they give a pretty soft focus, particularly if you stack them for really close up work. Maybe it's my technique that I haven't perfected, but I've seen much sharper images from this reversed lens technique. I suspect it's because the quality of glass in a prime lens is probably better than the diopter's.

  • Jinky

    November 7, 2008 04:38 am

    It is a step down ring in fact that you need to go from a 58mm to 52mm thread in this case.A reversing ring would allow you to put the 5omm lens say backwards onto the body on its own but in this case you are effectively linking the lenses through a step down ring surely as Image- Y suggests. Got the same lenses as me here so as soon as I get my step down ring I`ll have a go as I have problems with the cheap extension tubes I got off ebay.

  • Eduardo Pérez

    November 7, 2008 03:58 am

    Good article!

    AFAIK, step-up and step-down rings are male-female adapters used between a lens and a filter of different sizes; what you have used is a male-male adapter, also called a reverse ring.

  • W4yne

    November 7, 2008 03:37 am

    Well I guess if you don't buy em from good quality producers, they make the image quality suck and if you DO buy em from those producers, its not cheap any more ;)

    Another thing:

    Filter accessories are 3 different types.
    - Stepup and Stepdown rings which are used to use like a a 55 mm filter on a lens with 49 mm filter thread diameter (that's a stepdown ring then)
    - reversing ring is a piece of metal that has threads on both sides to screw together two lenses like in the article above
    - retro adapters have the bayonett mount on one side and on the other a filter thread to screw a lens onto the body facing the camera with the front element ( which in my opinion is the better method for super macro shots)

    Greetz Jim

  • Seim Effects

    November 7, 2008 03:33 am

    WOW. That's some pretty impressive shooting. I've never seen such a close up of a spiders face. Interesting technique. The closest I've come to macro is an extension tube, but I'll have to delve in deeper one of these days.

    Gavin

  • Akshay

    November 7, 2008 03:29 am

    Great photographs to present the topic. I have a question. For good macro lens, do I need to have DSLR?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ignoto_someoneski/2873477524/

  • seattle wedding photographer

    November 7, 2008 03:25 am

    Thanks for explaining this technique. I have been using my macro but had not thought of adding another lens to make it super.

    Comment by seattle wedding photographer Daniel Sheehan who's Seattle wedding photography uses a story-telling approach ranking himone of the best Seattle wedding photographers.

  • Andrew

    November 7, 2008 03:05 am

    One word: Diopters.

    People surprisingly don't use them as much anymore even when they are comparatively cheap and allow you to physically move your camera closer and focus. I'd like to see a shot with this "super macro" and a diopter placed between the lenses.

  • W4yne

    November 7, 2008 02:40 am

    I don't want to make your article look bad but i think there is a cheaper and better way.
    Now I started with two lenses on top of each other at first too.
    Then i discovered the retro macro method.
    All you need is a kit lens and a retro adapter which is like 20 dollars or euros or whatever currency ;D
    The lens has to be something like 18 to 55 or 70 mm.
    Important thing is the wide angle end of the lens, the smaller the wideangle focal length, the higher the image ratio gets.

    Don't worry about much about quality of kit lenses.
    I know they don't live up to better lenses IN NORMAL USAGE.
    But retro macro only uses the very center of the lens, which is usually the best spot. If you really want high image quality, go to dpreview.com and check out the lens tests, where they have an interactive tool where you can check out different focal lengths and f/stops.

    Now, flash is really a must for this type of photography as
    Yanik said. Basically all you need is well described in his article.
    The only reason I think the retro method wins out over the reversing mehtod ist that you dont have so much expensive glass and weight in front of your body.
    Also the image ratio is way more macro.
    I can get down to like 4:1 which is really astonishing to see.

    If you want to see examples, check out my flickr account http://www.flickr.com/photos/w4yne/ and go to retro files album

    Greetz Jim
    PS: I'll also share some in the forum

  • Felicity

    November 7, 2008 02:31 am

    I really love the shots you done here and all the info...
    I was wondering if you can help me as I am basically a rookie when it comes to photography... I have a Canon Rebel XSi and I have a 75-300mm lens but want a Macro lens... I have NO idea as to what I need to buy as an extra... do I need to buy any extras? What is a good lens? Can I put anything other then a Canon lens on there? I know this isn't the right place to put this but would really love to learn how to take photos like this...

  • jessica

    November 7, 2008 02:22 am

    I have a canon compact-macro lens EF 50mm, and a Tamron 17-50mm wide angle lens. Could I combine these two to do super macro photography? And if so, which one would I attach to the camera first? I would also need to find a Reverse ring, or step-up/down ring. So depending on which one I would attach to the camera first, it would be a different ring.
    Thanks

  • Image-Y

    November 7, 2008 02:02 am

    Hi Pete

    You might be right here. I've always called them step-up/down rings since I have a variety for my filters.

    I also saw the term "reverse ring". On Ebay they sometimes call them step-up/down rings.

  • Sandy

    November 7, 2008 01:46 am

    I thought it was an adapter ring like used for filters.
    I don't have a macro lens, but use macro filters on my prime lenses. Has anyone tried this technique using those? I may give it a try and see. Those are amazing shots!

  • Will

    November 7, 2008 01:04 am

    great article... my brother uses a Canon MP-E 65 and has taken some awesome macro shots with it:
    http://www.mattbl.com/2007/08/mosquito-emerging-2/
    http://www.mattbl.com/2006/08/common-blue-butterfly/
    http://www.mattbl.com/2007/12/leaf-cutter-ant/

  • Oliver Timmermann

    November 7, 2008 12:23 am

    In german it is "Kupplungsring", so probably "coupling ring" is better. Step down doesn't work, you can't screw in another lens.
    I did a little tutorial on this a couple of month ago: Extreme Makroaufnahmen mit dem Kupplungsring, if somebody wants a german version.

  • Pete Langlois

    November 7, 2008 12:11 am

    Just so there is no confusion, isn't the correct name for the ring a "reversing ring"? A step down ring is for filters.

    A set of Auto Tubes works great as well and you can use a variety of lenses with them. From Primes to zooms.

    Pete

    http://www.petelanglois.net/macro

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download

GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed

Sign up to the free

DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE

  • Guaranteed for 2 full months
  • Pay by PayPal or CreditCard
  • Instant Digital Download
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER
DPS NEWSLETTER

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Email:
 
 
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed