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Reversing Rings: Macro Photography On The Cheap

By Anthony Thurston on January 1st 2014

Winter can be a somewhat down time for many photographers. Wedding and Outdoor Portrait seasons are mostly done, and this leaves many of us with a lot more free time than normal. One way that many photographers pass the time is by trying out new forms of photography.

reverse-ring-macro Macro photography is a fun one, because it can be done year around, with minimal gear and almost no $$ needed to get started. That’s right, you don’t need to go out and spend hundreds or thousands on a new macro specific lens (though, those are really neat if you have the money for it), all you need is a cheap <10 adapter that can turn any lens you own into a high magnification macro lens.

[REWIND: Incredible Macro Shots Of Insects Shot By The USGS]

Photographer Mike Browne put together this great video detailing cheap ways of producing some amazing macro shots. The video itself is a little over a year old, but the techniques and use of the gear is exactly the same.

It has actually inspired me to grab one of these adapters for myself. It should be here on Friday, at which point I will likely do a quick review with some sample images for you all. I am really excited to try my hand at taking some images of various bugs I can find. Nothing is quite as cool as super macro shots of bugs to me, so I am excited to give it a shot.


A Few Things I took Away From the Video:

  1. You can achieve an amazing macro shot simply by hand holding your lens to your camera body backwards. The downside to this is that your hands get full and focusing can be a pain while you are trying to fiddle with everything. The advantage of doing it this way is that there is zero upfront cost to trying it out.
  2. The better way of doing it, in my opinion, is by purchasing one of those lens reversal rings, which attach your lens to the camera backwards. The downside here is that you have to purchase the adapter, but they are really cheap and the benefits are much greater. You get to use the lens mostly how you would normally (minus aperture control and auto exposure modes), and you have both of your hands free. Its a win-win in my opinion.

Extra tip: If you would like to have more aperture control, you can go out and buy older lenses that still have aperture control on the lens. This would allow you to change your aperture while the lens is mounted backwards. You don’t even need the lens to be the same brand as your camera, it just needs to be the same filter size as the adapter you purchase.

Have you shot macro photos like this before? Has this inspired you to grab an adapter and give it a try? Share your thoughts in a comment below!

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Matt

    Reversing Rings are great for the price! I would only test this method when you have a reversing ring installed, as most cameras have sensor that, when on, produce an electric charge that will attract dust to it like a magnet.

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  2. Hok

    How to get reversing Rings for EOS M? The front lens is normal like all Canon EOS APC like that is 52mm, but the other size is EF-M not EF-S. Normal reversing Rings for Canon APC should not work? I have tried manually to reverse the lens, but it hard and so dark. Can you help me find a cheap way to do macro on EOS M? Thank you.

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  3. Millie Williams

    I want to try the reverse lense with a reverse ring but my question is, since my camera only shows an image is if a lense is attached to the sensor. I tried to just hold the lens and turn it around but nothing. Will the ring solve this or will I have to set the camera settings to somehow override the the sensor? Thanks.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Hi Millie,

      Most Cameras have some sort of setting that you can turn on that will allow shooting without a confirmed lens. In the case of my 6D, the reversing ring ‘just works’, I didnt have to change any settings to get it to work. The only thing to remember is that you have 0 aperture control(unless you have an old lens with it built in). To get around this, on Canon lenses anyways, you can put the camera in live view with the lens attached correctly and then change the aperture. With live view still on, remove the lens and it should hold whatever aperture you had it set to. Then reverse mount the lens and you are good to go.

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  4. Hanssie

    I have a set of three extension tubes, which I use from time to time…but only for ring shots. Guess I should expand my horizons a bit.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Yeah, I just picked up a reverse ring adapter similar to the one in the video as well as a cheap set of extension tubes. Should be here Friday, going to have some fun over the weekend trying them out.

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