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Tips & Tricks

How We Rock a Convex Lens For Flares, Haze, and as a Macro Substitute

By Amii & Andy Kauth on February 29th 2016

Our “camera bag” is full of all kinds of fun odds and ends: prisms, mirrors, copper pipes, and even a crystal ball. One of our favorite “tools” is our trusty double convex lens. It has a myriad of uses, but we use it most for close up shots and creating flares. You can get them on Amazon, but they tend to be sold out often. A simple Google search for “double convex lens 75mm 17.5cm focal length” will net you several hits.

[Rewind: 3 IDEAS TO INSPIRE CREATIVE GETTING READY SHOTS]

If you’ve read some of our other articles, you’ll know that we love getting ready shots (especially all the details that we like to capture: rings, shoes, jewelry, etc.). And this is partially why we initially fell in love with our convex lens; it’s a great macro substitute.

Use a Convex Lens as a Macro Substitute

When we use our convex lens as a macro substitute, we mean we’re literally not using a macro lens for close-up detail shots. We hold the convex lens in front of our camera’s lens to magnify the image (or part of the image). Here’s a tip: when using a convex lens, always shoot in live view. Here’s how we do it…

When magnifying the entire frame for ring shots, in particular, we like to use our 50mm lens (sans hood) with an old 2X Tamron teleconverter that we acquired (ours is actually from the ’90s); it allows us to double our focal length. We open the aperture as far as the lens will allow (f/1.8, for example) and focus as close up to the ring as possible. Next, we hold the convex lens directly against the rim of our lens. And, finally, we physically move our camera away from and toward our subject (still holding the convex lens against our 50mm lens) until the ring is in focus. It’s a bit tricky to nail at first, and it takes some practice. But once you master it, you can create some gorgeous ring shots.

chimpingarticlesandr3 50mm, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/200 sec
chimpingarticlesandr8 50mm, ISO 50, f/5.0, 1/160 sec

chimpingarticlesandr550mm, ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/250 sec

If you’re magnifying the entire frame for a macro look, but don’t need your subject to be quite as close up, you can ditch the teleconverter and simply hold the convex lens directly against the rim of your lens. We’ve found that this technique works really well with a 50mm lens (and other lenses in the same general focal length).

chimpingarticlesandr9

50mm, ISO 80, f/3.5, 1/200 sec

Something else to try is magnifying only part of the frame. Follow the same procedure that we described above for focusing on your subject. This time, hold the convex lens a few inches from your camera’s lens, moving both the camera and convex lens toward and away from your subject until you have the desired subject in focus. You’ll be able to create some pretty solid images.

chimpingarticlesandr2 50mm, ISO 100, f/5.0, 1/200 sec
chimpingarticlesandr 50mm, ISO 64, f/1.8, 1/4000 sec
chimpingarticlepiano

50mm, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/160 sec

Use The Convex Lens to Create Flares & Haze

We also love our convex lens because it flares with the best of ’em. And if you practice enough, you can essentially make it do whatever you want. You can create bokeh-like flares as well as some sweet hazy “blurs.” The effects you’ll be able to achieve will depend on the light you have to work with as well as the colors in your surroundings, but you’ll definitely be able to spice up an otherwise ordinary scene and make your images look even more amazing!

To create a flare or some haze, try holding the convex lens on different sides of your camera’s lens at varying angles to catch the light in a way that looks cool to you within the frame—you’ll be able to check because you’ll be in live view and will clearly be able to see the effects you are creating in camera.

chimpingarticlesandr7bouquet 50mm, ISO 200, f/1.8, 1/60 sec
chimpingarticlesandr7-2 50 mm, ISO 320, f/2.5, 1/2500 sec
chimpingarticlesandr4 50mm, ISO 100, f/3.2, 1/100
chimpingarticlesandr7 50mm, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/2000 secchimpingarticlesandr650mm, ISO 50, f/3.5, 1/200 sec
chimpingarticlemarc 50mm, ISO 50, f/1.8, 1/200 sec
chimpingarticlemarcfirstlook50mm, ISO 80, f/1.8, 1/2500 sec
chimpingarticlesandr-2

50mm, ISO 100, f/1.8, 1/125 sec

Conclusion

We’re not necessarily advocating that you ditch your macro lens (full disclosure: we don’t use one and don’t really plan on ever getting one), but we think it’d be worth it for you to spend $10-$20 and add a few convex lenses to your arsenal. Let us know if you’ve tried it or have thought about it/are going to give it a go (comment below). And we’d love to see your images (post some over at our ever growing Facebook community group)!

 

Amii & Andy are a wife and husband team of rad portrait and wedding photographers (Sunshine & Reign Photography) who absolutely love life and are generally just stoked! Yeah! When they aren’t photographing or writing and teaching about photography, you’ll find them off on a seriously legit adventure with their little ones, lifting weights in their garage, training jiu-jitsu, refining their archery skills, or surfing every chance they get. And on the rare chance they escape off on a “date night”? Yep! They’ll find a wedding to crash (true fact).

Website: Sunshine & Reign Photography
Instagram: @sunshineandreign

Q&A Discussions

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  1. simon simon

    hello , I read the article with pleasure ! good job! I was looking for a bi-convex lens the same but I can not find even on amazon . you can give me some left indication of some lens like more findable ? consider that use a panasonic GH4 with 1.4 panasonic leica 25mm or 45mm Zuiko 1.8

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  2. sam tziotzios

    Well it appears I could not edit my earlier comment on some new findings I had. So here goes again. I bought a magnifying glass and the concept works! The close up filters I had were only convex on one side, not double.

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  3. sam tziotzios

    great article. i have tried to use some close-up filters that i have laying around to the same effect. Although I can see how one can create flares I am really baffled as to how Sam Hurd manages to defocus the entire frame and manage to have the subject behind the glass in focus. Is the subject a reflection behind the photographer or something behind the glass?
    Either way I have not been able to reproduce this, wondering if anyone has had success in that regard.
    The only thing I can come up with is stacked frames in post, one unfocused and then masking in the focused area.

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Thanks, Sam. Is there a specific image you are referring to? If you give an example, we could likely better weigh in with regard to your question. When we use the convex lens as a macro, we put the convex lens against the camera’s lens and slowly move into the subject until it is in focus.

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    • sam tziotzios

      Hi Andy and thanks for the reply. I found 2 images by Sam Hurd where he does this. Its like a circle of focus.

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Not sure how we missed this comment, Sam … :( We are pretty certain this is with a concave and not a convex lens!

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  4. Lewis Fackrell

    I’ve played around with a convex lens for quite some time, absolutely love it, another great way to add some mood and interest on a dull day! Cheers Lewis Fackrell Photography!

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  5. Andres Anzaldo

    wow this is so interesting! but i didn’t found this specific double convex lens, even in google. i just found a 500mm and 200mm focal length.
    ¿any suggestions? regards and thanks for share! :D

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Thanks so much, Andres! We noticed (thanks to your comment) that our search suggestion originally said 1.75cm. Should be 17.5cm. If you search “double convex 75mm 17.5cm,” you’ll get several good results. Unfortunately they are sold out on our original link. You’ll probably end up paying around $20 for one, unfortunately. Hope that helps a bit! Cheers!

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  6. Geert Peeters

    Great post!

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  7. Chad DiBlasio

    I have a box full of these and rarely use it! Love to see the macro shot in person next week!

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  8. Ramon Acosta

    A picture of the setup would have been useful.

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Thanks for your comment, Ramon. We’ve been thinking about doing some video tutorials. As far as the set up on this, you literally just hold a convex lens in front of your camera (works best to have your camera in live view). As you move the convex lens around, tilting it in all different directions, you’ll see the effects you can create.

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    • Sean Lewis

      I’ve used a convex lens a couple times, but I never tried it w/ live view. Once in a while I find my finger up in the blurry/reflective mix in post. I’ll have to give live view a go. Anyway, I love your work and your articles are great as well.

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      Thanks for reading the article, the comment, and for the compliments, Sean! We so appreciate it!

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    • simon simon

      Where are videos? Can i see? Thanks

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    • Andy & Amii Kauth

      No videos at this time!

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  9. Kyle Stauffer

    The creative possibilities and ways to get a shot are as infinite as the potential subjects themselves….I’m learning every day! Thank you for sharing these techniques and ways to explore them!

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