I think one of the reasons I fell in love with photography was because it allowed me to view the world in ways that just are not possible with our naked eyes. Through photography we can freeze a lightning strike or a rocket launch. We can hold on to, savor, study, and appreciate the beauty in a moment. It’s a way of slowing down and enjoying what we have around us. Through macro photography specifically, we can enjoy the infinite detail in the infinitely small. We can be face to face with an insect, or count the mathematical and intricate patterns in a blooming flower.
photography producing photographs of small items larger than life size.
Here are 4 ways to get into macro photography without spending a ton of money on new equipment.
1. Rent a Macro Lens
Probably the easiest way to take a sharp, high quality macro photograph with your DSLR is with a macro lens designed specifically for macro photography. If you buy a macro lens, this is also the most expensive option. I’ve rented the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS USM Macro Lens and it is a dream to use. A macro lens is different than most other lenses in that it lets you focus on a subject that is extremely close to your lens. But at $1,049.00 it doesn’t quite make it into my personal lens collection. My other Recommended Lenses cover most of what I need to do 99% of the time and I need to shoot macro so rarely that renting makes more sense than buying. You can rent this lens over at BorrowLenses.com for $46.20 for 7 days! You could rent it over 20 times for 7 days each time for the cost of buying it new.
2. Use the Lens You Have
While you may not be able to focus as close with the standard zoom or prime lens that you already have, you can still take nice shots of small objects or details. Zoom in as much as you can and shoot with a large aperture to mimic the shallow depth of field characteristic of macro photography. If you shoot in RAW or at a high resolution, you can even ‘crop in’ on your photo in Photoshop or Lightroom to make the subject of your photo larger.
3. Buy Some Extension Tubes
Extension tubes work with your existing lens to increase the distance from your camera’s sensor to the rear element in your lens. This let’s your camera focus on objects much closer. I purchased this set from Fotodiox and am able to get some decent results using it with my existing lenses. You attach the tube to your camera body and then attach attach your lens to the other end. On Canon lenses you will lose the ability to adjust the aperture and you will have to focus manually as the extension tube severs the electrical connection between the camera body and the lens. At only $14.95, I can live with those downsides and it’s handy to cary these tubes in my bag in case the opportunity arrives to shoot some macro shots.
4. Use “Macro” Mode on a Point and Shoot Camera
Macro photography is so popular that many inexpensive consumer level point and shoot cameras have a “macro” mode that allows you to focus impressively close to your subject. You won’t end up with as high a resolution image as with a DSLR, but you can definitely achieve some impressive results. I shot the below photo of water drops on this plant about 7 years ago with a Canon Digital Elf. While I haven’t used a point and shoot in several years, I’m sure the latest models have only improved over the version I was using.