Skip to main content

Build & Shoot: PVC Extension Tube

Lesson 18 from: DIY Photography: Lens Attachments, Filters & Creative Effects

Mike Hagen

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

18. Build & Shoot: PVC Extension Tube

Lesson Info

Build & Shoot: PVC Extension Tube

- [Instructor] All right this one, I think this one is a little bit more practical. This one...the toilet paper, that's cheap and it's fun, but you're probably not going to use it very frequently to create great photos. But this is a great solution here. So I've made a couple of extension tubes out of PVC pipe. So there we go, PVC pipe. This is literally black. I think it's two inch PVC pipe. Bought it from a local hardware store. Make them in different lengths for less magnification or more magnification. I brought my little tape measure here just to show you that this one this is about three inches, maybe two and three-quarters inches, something like that. This one I think it was about a four and a half inch. Yeah, about four and a half inch. Cool. You can make them three-quarters of an inch, one inch, two inches. Just, you know, play around with it. It's very inexpensive to do. So here's how you do it. You get your PVC pipe. You measure it with the tape measure, put a mark on it, cu...

t it with a hacksaw. Try to cut it straight because you want everything to align, right? You want your lens to align with the camera. You can see I didn't actually cut this one very straight. I didn't do a very good job. I didn't follow my own rules. That's okay because we can make up the difference when we start gluing on the lens caps. Okay, so now... let me pull this out of the way. So here's the lens caps. I have basically a base lens cap, and I cut out the hole just like I showed you before. And then I can mount the camera right under there just like that. I'm sorry, I can mount the lens right on there. And then on this side, I have the body cap. And I also just cut out the middle of the body cap using my hole saw. And now it's as simple as mounting that onto my camera and doing some macro photography. Make sense? Okay, so let's go shoot some macro photography. And I think on this one I'll do live view again as well. Maybe I'll just do live views initially, and then I'll do a couple of actual macro shots in Lightroom so you can see it on the big screen where it's not all wobbly. Okay, here we go. Okay, that's pretty cool. It mounts. I can let go of it. It's solid. It's not going to break. My lens isn't going to fall on the ground. Makes me really happy. I'm going to set my focus for infinity. I'm going to set my aperture for like f/4, f/5.6, whatever you want. I'll do f/4. And now we turn on live view. Cool. So a lot of times here, you're just figuring out distances and that's why it's sometimes easier just to hand hold it. Yeah. And because the length of this tube is about the same length as the toilet paper thing we did earlier, the magnification is about the same. And this will change with different lenses, a little more telephoto lens. Like I shot practice, I shot this with a 200-millimeter lens and I was able to actually be back this far away, about four or five feet away, versus this one where you have to be a few inches away. So try this with an array of different lenses that you may own. Let's take a photo, and I'll take a photo and stick it into Lightroom so we can see actually in high quality. Okay, take this off. And this is why I like these little PVC things because they're so easy and so portable and so durable. And I'm just going to hand hold this. One other tip, I know I said I'm going to shoot this just through the viewfinder, but a lot of times when you're doing this, it's easy to compose the photo in your own camera's live view. I like doing macro photography in live view. It actually works very well. All right, here we go. Get in there close. Okay, I'm at 1/10th of a second. And I know that's going to be a terrible shot because it's going to be blurry. So I'm going to increase my ISO to 3200 just because I'm hand holding. There we go. Nice. Really artistic and painterly shots. Okay, loading, dot, dot, dot. Well, a little bit a little bit washed out and that's just because I didn't expose for it really well. But let's go back in time. That one right there. Yeah, really cool. Really cool. So one thing I forgot to tell you as I was constructing this, my first photographs that I took of that bee, the bee was completely washed out no matter what I did from an exposure standpoint. So I actually took gaff tape and I stuck it in here. And I just put gaff tape all throughout the inside of the extension tube, and that helped with the contrast. It was a very good solution. So, yeah, neat, huh? Love it. Easy way to do inexpensive macro photography with a PVC pipe. - [Woman] A question came in from Joe M. who said, "Do you use Lensbaby for your flower images?" And so I guess what I'm wondering is which of the DIY things that we've done might be closest to using a Lensbaby? - Yeah, good, lensbabies, for those of you who are watching and you don't know the Lensbaby is, lensbabies are kind of like a free lens effect. There's a whole bunch of different types of lensbabies now, but they're all designed to create really great out of focused, soft and blurry photo effects or maybe even differential focus. Remember that portrait we did earlier where I was free lensing, where this eye was in focus and that eye was blurry? Lensbabies allow you to do that type of a look. So I would say probably free lensing along with my toilet plunger bellows, those two things would get you a little bit close to the Lensbaby effect.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

DIY How-To Guide

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

It's a fun course, with a lot of interesting ideas presented in a way to help spark the creative juices in anyone wanting to branch out and experiment with different ideas. Mike's presentation style is fun and easygoing - perfect for this type of discussion. If you're not afraid to color outside the lines and see where the road takes you, this is a very enjoyable bit of inspiration.


Love it!! Very creative and full of inspiration. Mike Hagen explains the different effects in a great way, he is precise yet easy-going so he makes learning fun. I recommend this class to all who wants to take their creative photography to the next level without spending money on expensive accessories.


Mike has an easy-going, pleasant & fun personality. He explains things clearly. Rolls with whatever happens. And, he's very good about answering audience questions in an understandable, positively reinforcing and non-judgemental way (which can be rare for some established pro photographers...).

Student Work