In this article you will see that you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money to photograph closeup.
Telephoto for Closeups
I’d like to start with an idea that isn’t considered too often. Using a telephoto lens, zoomed to the furthest focal length to catch an object up close and personal. For example, quite often I use my Nikon 24-70mm or 70-200mm lenses to capture closeups of flowers. This is usually because I’m out on a photowalk without a macro lens. While I do have a Nikon 105mm micro lens, it’s not a lens I typically bring with me on a photowalk.
My article, Don’t always photograph flowers with a macro lens, shares three photographs of flowers all captured with the Nikon 24-70mm lens. They aren’t the closest flower photographs but it is the idea behind it. In June of 2010 I was in the middle of a Project 365 and shared another example. This time it was a closeup of a dandelion.
Also photographed with the Nikon 24-70mm lens, the detail in the flower is stunning and the depth of field is perfect. If I used the macro lens, most likely there would be no surroundings to the flower, which for me would be too boring.
The thing to remember when photographing a closeup shot with a telephoto lens is that you will likely be standing a lot further away than you might expect. If you plan on trying it out, here are some tips:
- Use a strong, sturdy tripod because you see more shake the longer you zoom
- Cable releases are your best friend. Pushing your shutter button with a finger causes more shake than you might realize.
- You often see more background when shooting closeups with a telephoto than you would with a macro lens so be aware of the subject’s background
- Remember than the the f-stop you choose will work like that of a macro lens. If you’re photographing your subject at f/2.8 than the subject will have more depth of field, but might look flat. Choose wisely.
- If you have an extension tube available, try using it to further extend the focal length which would bring you in closer to the subject.
- If you want an extra method to cut camera shake, use your camera’s mirror lockup function. Couple this feature with the tripod and cable release and the only thing you ned to worry about is wind shaking your tripod. If you do not have a mirror lockup function, try using a longer shutter speed so the mirror vibration time is not visible from the exposure time.
Using Any Lenses for Closeups
- Remove the lens from the camera body
- Turn the lens around so the filter side is facing the body
- Hold the lens steady because it is not connected to the camera. There are two options to solve this problem:
- Use rubber bands strategically (wrapping around the lens mount of lens and the camera body) to keep the lens in place
- Purchase a lens reversal ring. They’re inexpensive and do what they are intended for.
- Get up very close. In fact, a lot closer than you might expect
- Boost your ISO as needed. Remember, the closer you get, the less light hits the sensor.
I hope that these tips will get you out shooting more closeups because they can be so much fun. You most likely already have most of the gear you would need to do it, so there are no excuses. If you do not have telephoto and want to try the lens reversal trick, I recommend picking up a reversal ring so securely hold your lens in place. I also recommend using a prime lens (e.g., 50mm, 85mm, 35mm, 24mm) for your lens reversal macro as it is the best choice.
Thanks for reading,
The second part about flipping your lens is not advisable and shouln’t be talked about. Besides dropping the lens or the camera body because they aren’t attached you can get dust and dirt in your camera or lens. Some lens are not weather sealed and you this dust can get inside the lens. Its is really pricy to send your cameras into canon or nikon for a cleaing or if they have to take a lens apart its even more money. Just buy a macro lens and bring it will you on a photo walk inside a little carry case.
I knew someone who did this and a wasp flew iinside his camera while he was photographing a flower in this method. Wasp was able to get between the space between the body and the lens and his sensor needed to be replaced because of the residue that was on the wasp.
Sean, thanks for the comment. There are actually lens reversal mounts available and they only cost a few dollars. (around $10-$15) That way the lens is physically mounted to the camera, even when backwards.