Reverse Lens Macro Technique – by Roni Delmonico
When I first learned about the Reverse Lens Method of macro photography, I honestly thought it sounded like an amazing idea but had very little belief that it could produce a truly worthwhile macro image. How wrong I was. Reverse Lens is a remarkably inexpensive way to shoot macro, very simply, with little equipment and with extraordinary and unusual results. It takes practice and patience, as all macro photography techniques do but it yields dreamy, almost surreal results, once mastered.
Early on, before I had done any research on the subject, I simply took my 50mm lens off the camera, turned it, just as the name suggests, in reverse…and held it by hand against the lens opening on the camera body, using my hand to keep out as much of the light as possible.
It wasnʼt easy to accomplish this, as I was holding the lens with one hand, trying my best to keep out as much light as possible, and shooting with the other hand. But, I was seriously hooked and hungry for more information that might help me learn how to perfect this technique and make it work for me. I did not have the funds to purchase a dedicated macro lens at the time and felt this technique held real promise. I went in search of anything I could find on the subject and found an especially helpful video on YouTube that demonstrates the technique quite nicely. Seeing it in person, helped a lot.
I was thrilled to discover that you can actually purchase a reverse lens mount from Amazon and it only costs $8.25!
This inexpensive little ring allows you to mount your lens (I use the 18-55 kit lens that was previously collecting dust in my camera bag) backward onto the body of your camera. You can then begin shooting macro immediately and simply, without any other piece of equipment. I have had so much fun with this technique and have been successful enough at it, that Iʼve been asked to demonstrate the method at a local photography workshop I will be attending in November. Winter is a wonderful time to experiment with studio type shooting and at $8.25, you have nothing to lose!
Iʼve been shooting this way for nearly 6 months now. Itʼs an adventure into new worlds of imagination every time. I use nothing more than my camera, the reverse lens mount, and occasionally an LED flashlight. A few helpful tips…
*Make sure you have a good light source.
A bright window, a small handheld flashlight, or an overhead light is just fine. Iʼve never used the on camera flash when shooting in reverse, nor an external one, as I have not yet found the need to.
Reverse Lens produces a razor thin depth of field and it will be nearly impossible to get any clarity without zooming in on Live View, to the area in which you want the most clarity. Do not expect an overall sharp image. Reverse Lens will give you a creamy soft effect, with some areas of sharpness.
*A tripod is necessary.
Reverse Lens is very unsuccessful, in my experience, when handheld. Iʼve only gotten mediocre results that way. A time delay or cable release is also helpful, as the least tiny movement can cause blur in your image at such high magnification.
*Experiment with subject matter.
Iʼve used everything from jewelry and seashells, to flowers and bugs, to toy cars and old LP records spritzed with water. What you shoot, is limitless, according to your own creativity and imagination. I find it helpful, not just in macro shooting, but in all photography..to shoot the same subject from various different angles. I find I also shoot some things extremely closely..at 18mm magnification, and some further out, at 55mm. I move the subject matter by hand a lot, in front of the lens, always watching the scene on Live View as it changes.
Here are a few of the images Iʼve captured via Reverse Lens. I hope they will inspire you to give it a try this winter, when the weather turns colder and we all spend more time indoors. Itʼs brought me a lot of joy and countless hours of fun and it is a method I think more people should know about.
Which one is your favorite? Leave comments at the bottom of this article.