Introduction to Macro Photography

Lesson 4/12 - Inexpensive Macro Tools


Introduction to Macro Photography


Lesson Info

Inexpensive Macro Tools

Well, let's say you don't want to spend 100 bucks on these extension tubes, what's your next option? Well, the next option is do it yourself. So those of you who have watched CreativeLive or been following me offline know that I do a lot of DIY type of stuff. In fact, that's my 10th book is The Enthusiast's Guide to DIY Photography, and the whole book is dedicated to make-it-yourself photo gear. Well, this is a make-it-yourself extension tube, and it's made out of PVC. Literally, go to the hardware store, you buy yourself some black PVC. Right here is a body cap from a camera, you know, the cap that goes right in the front of the camera. I just went onto Amazon and bought an extra body cap. Oops, sorry, I'll move it around. So here's a body cap for the camera, and then on this side over here, I've got a lens cap for the back of the lens, and you'll see how this all works together in just a second. I drilled out the middle with a hole drill, or a hole saw, basically, and drilled this on...

e out, and then I used superglue and glued them to the ends. And now what I've got, try to do this so I don't drop anything on the floor, is I can take my lens, and I put it in the lens cap section. See, it just mounts like that, and then the body cap segment just goes on the camera like this, and now I've got myself a super duper extension tube that cost less than, probably, four dollars. Three or four dollars. Now, I talked about, to his question about brightness loss, well, look at how thick that is. You know, that's, like, three inches. You're gonna lose a lot of light, and when you try to take photos here, a lot of times when you look through the camera, you know, it's like, "Oh, it's really dark." Well, I have a, no, I don't have a lens cap on there. (laughs) It's really dark! (laughs) (audience laughs) It is, and so, it's hard to see. One other point I want to make, and the reason why it is so dark, this lens, let's see if I can get it off there. There we go. This lens has what's called an electronic aperture. Electronic aperture. As opposed to that 50 millimeter lens that I had earlier, it had a mechanical aperture control. Remember the old-school lenses you used to be able to change the aperture by, like, rotating the base of the lens? You had to go f/11, f/16, f/22, click, click, click? Well, you really need that type of a lens to use this DIY type of a kit. So you can't, I can't get anything other than f/22 out of this electronic lens, whereas if use my 50, my nifty 50, everyone should have a nifty 50. There we go. Now I can just go click, click, click here on the lens, and change my aperture from f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, like that, and now when I look through it, oh, yeah, there you are. Actually, you aren't there, because you're blurry. So let me talk one more thing about extension tubes, one of the frustrating things about extension tubes. Your focus range becomes compressed. In other words, now, with this, I can only focus from, let's say, from... Whoa. Oh yeah, one other thing, when you do the DIY thing, your lens can fall off pretty easy, so move slow, you don't want it to fall off. So here, I can focus right there and take a picture. Oh, don't need my flashers on the other side of the room going off. So that's the closest, I'm what? I'm about an inch away from the front of my lens? And then at infinity on my lens, infinity is right there. (laughs) All right, I don't think those came through. Yeah, they probably came through very black in Lightroom. You don't have to cut to that. But you get the point. My focus range now is very limited to about one inch to two inches away from the subject. Contrast that with an actual macro lens, this macro lens that can focus from here all the way out to infinity. So, sometimes you get a lot by paying a little bit more money for a high-quality product. So that's extension tubes, and this is DIY, making a DIY extension tube. I'm gonna pull that off before I drop it on the floor and ruin my nifty 50. I don't want to ruin my 50. Great. So let's talk now, oh, I've got one other thing. I forgot, this one's really cool. This one's great, because you also can do this very inexpensively. So I like shopping at thrift stores. We all like shopping at thrift stores, and a lot of times at thrift stores, you can find inexpensive camera gear. Here's a Pentax, it's a Pentax, I don't even know the model name. Oh, it's an A3000. I found this for $10 at my local thrift store. 10 bucks, and it had a 50 millimeter lens on it. I'm like, "This is sweet!" So what I can do is I can take this lens now, and I can mount it backwards, this is called reverse mounting. I can mount it backwards on my camera, and turn this little inexpensive $10 lens into a macro lens. Let me show you how that works. I'm gonna walk over to the gear table, and if I can find my little reversing lens, let's see, I'll do it right here. So what this reversing lens is is it has a Nikon mount on one side, and then on the other side, it's got a screw mount. So then, I can take that screw mount and I can screw it onto the front of my little nifty 50 from Pentax. (humming) There we go. And take this other lens off. Already, you can see, macro photography is all fiddly. There's just so many little things that work. Easy to drop stuff. So I just caution you, move slow. And then you just mount that onto the camera. Find the mounting mark, come on. There we go. So that 50 millimeter lens is now reverse mounted on the camera, and now I can focus like this, and then, remember what I said earlier about changing the aperture? Now I can change the aperture, because it's an old-school lens, I can change the aperture from wide open to closed down to f/22. So what do you get when you shoot with this one? Well, the same thing, your focus distance is very limited, in fact, in this case, there's almost no difference in focusing at infinity and focusing at the minimum focus distance. It's almost all right there, that's it. So that's at infinity. Here's at minimum. Right there. So it's pretty much the same distance in either case, but it's pretty, the photos that you can get are very high-quality, 'cause this is a high-quality lens, you know, it just happens to be 30 or 40 years old, but it's another very inexpensive way to shoot macro work. There, I've given you, what, six different ways to shoot with your, to shoot macro, from the very expensive to the very, very inexpensive.

Class Description

Learn how to unlock the fantastic world of macro photography. Instructor Mike Hagen details the gear, techniques, and software you’ll need to capture extreme detail in everything from flowers to insects to jewelry. Create larger than life images with intricate detail using methods that Mike clearly demonstrates in this class.


Amy Vaughn

Good class, but I want more. CreativeLive, please get Mike Hagen to come back to do a full 1-2 day macro class. I'd love to see a deeper exploration of all his macro gear, diy toys, demos of Helicon Focus and Zerene Stacker, and maybe showing live examples beyond flowers like bugs, abstracts and shooting through water.

ESther IGlich

A good intro course.I learned a lot in a short period of time, but really this class needs to be longer. It felt rushed. Would have liked to seen more on lighting specifically. However given the time Mike had to work in he did a great job and I enjoyed his insights.


I appreciated Mike's suggestions for DIY macro equipment. There is a lot of money you could save with those ideas alone. Great class and I agree ​it would be great to see more!