How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

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A magnifying glass is a handy little tool, popular with intrepid detectives and bug collectors. As the name suggests, the convex lens produces a magnified image of an object, but it can also be used to make some unusual and eye-catching imagery. Pairing a photographic lens with a magnifying glass will probably not create a flawless alternative to a macro lens, but the unique properties of a handheld convex lens mean that there are endless combinations of optical effects to exploit.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

What you will need:

  • DSLR camera
  • Magnifying glass
  • Subject to photograph
  • Cleaning cloth
  • Tripod

Getting Started

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

The first thing to remember when using this technique is that the glass in your average, run-of-the-mill magnifying glass will be of far lesser quality than that of the glass inside your camera. The nature of the cheaper quality glass lends a softening effect to an image so sharpening in post-production (using software like Photoshop or Camera Raw) will help to add a bit more definition to the photographs. But don’t worry if you aren’t getting pin-sharp precision, the softness can actually add to the image overall.

Using a tripod to photograph subjects through the lens of a magnifying glass is a good idea too. Without a tripod, camera shake will add another layer of difficulty to a process that can be slightly tricky at times. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ve chosen flowers as my subject. They make good subjects for this technique because they are colorful, interesting and they don’t move around. Getting the hang of this technique on a static subject will save you a bit of frustration when moving onto more animate subject matter later

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

This leaf was photographed against a window with the afternoon sun pouring through from behind. The light illuminated the veins in the leaf and the magnifying glass helped capture the detail in its intricate fibers.

Magnification depends upon a magnifying glass’s distance relative to the subject or camera, so there are endless angles and distances to experiment with to create imagery with soft light and diffused bokeh-like effects.

Method

First, clean the glass of the magnifying glass with a tissue or cleaning cloth to avoid dust spots. Maneuver your camera up close to the subject. If you are using a zoom lens, zoom in as far as possible. Your autofocus will most likely get confused by the additional glass between the lens and the subject, so set your lens to manual focus instead.

Hold the magnifying glass over the front of the lens with your hand.  Notice that it will either make the subject appear bigger or just extremely out of focus. With one hand you will need to either adjust the camera focus manually or move the magnifying glass forward and backward between the camera and subject. Trying to find a sweet spot where part or all of the image looks focused can be tricky – but be open to how the magnifying glass alters the photograph. The results can often surprise you.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Keep in mind that the extra layer of glass will cut down the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor so you may have to adjust the exposure compensation, depending on the available light of your setup. Don’t forget to experiment with depth of field by adjusting the aperture as well. Taking control of the aperture will guide the viewer’s eye around the photograph. That can be crucial in more abstract images like these floral landscapes.

Experiment!

The best bit about this technique is that it rewards experimentation. Once you have a feel for photographing your subject through a magnifying glass, why not use two taped together for greater magnification? Or take a chance at photographing a friend or pet? Or why not try including the loop of the magnifying glass to create a framing effect? With even the slightest adjustment in angle or distance a magnifying glass can render some unique results. Take the time to experiment and have fun.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Experiment with black and white images to highlight shape and form.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Tape two magnifying glasses together for greater magnification.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

Create unusual framing effects by incorporating the loop of the magnifying glass in your photograph.

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

How to Create Artistic Photos with a Magnifying Glass

After you get the hang of photographing still objects, why not move onto something more animated.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Megan Kennedy is a photographer and writer based in Canberra, Australia. A lifelong fascination with flight has inspired her photographic practice in documenting the intricate form of aircraft. Megan is also interested in travel photography and documenting human interaction with the modern landscape, through both intentional and incidental intervention. She is well versed in both digital and film practice. Both her writing and photography has been featured in numerous publications.

  • sharon.currier

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  • carolyn.schwab

    I was paid 104000 bucks last year by doing a web based job and I was able to do it by w­orking in my own time f­o­r quite a few hours each day. I used work opportunity I came across over the internet and I am delighted that I was manage to make such good money. It is genuinely newbie-friendly and I am so grateful that I discovered out regarding it. Take a look at exactly what I do… http://secure65.weebly.com

  • Cool idea!

  • Geoff

    This concept arrived just in time, Megan. I have a project ‘close-up’ (not macro) at my photo club.

  • ronald1216

    you can use a lens as macro and close up as long as you focus the camera againts the lens in the middle. you can see real clear on a lens anywhere in the home or yard, best thing for the magnifires is you can video through screens and fences in automode without it you can zoom full time and only see the screen in front of your lens.

  • I was paid 104000 bucks past year by doing an internet task and also I was able to do it by w­orking in my own time f­o­r several hours every day. I tried work opportunity I stumbled upon over the internet and therefore I am thrilled that I was in a position to make such good money. It’s actually newbie-friendly and therefore I am so pleased that I found out about it. Have a look at what I do… http://www.doshort.com/58r4

  • ronald1216

    fake

  • Steve Michelle Williams

    Photo club sounds like a fun club…

  • Doug Green

    Good article. I would only make one change. Never use tissue to clean a magnifying glass, or your glasses for that matter. Tissues are made of wood and will eventually scratch glass.

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