Reverse Lens Macro Photography

By Nik Bruining

Adult jumping spider

What is reverse lens macro photography?

Reverse lens macro photography is a technique where you mount your lens backwards on the camera. The magnification of a reversed lens increases and that is exactly what you're after!

The wider the angle of the lens, the greater the magnification. A 50mm lens will provide a rough 1:1 ratio while a 28mm lens will yield almost a 2:1 ratio.
Extreme macro of an eye

Why reverse lens macro photography?

First of all it's super cheap! While a decent macro lens will cost around $400,- you could get an old 28mm or 50mm lens + a reverse ring for less than $50,-.

Secondly, with this technique you can get tack sharp images. Every single image on this website has been taken using the reversed lens technique.

And thirdly, it's very easy to set up!
Ladybug on top of a flower

What is needed?

One way to approach this technique is to attach the lens directly on the camera using a reverse ring adapter. A good way to start is using an old 50mm lens with a manual aperture ring (like the SMC-Pentax A 50mm), so you have control over the aperture.

I would also recommend using an external flash, so you can still use a narrow aperture without the loss of too much light. It is not necesarry, but keep in mind the depth of field will be really shallow using a reversed lens (could be less than a mm). Another benefit of using a flash is that it 'freezes' your subject. Insects for example are always on the move, so when you would choose not to use a flash, it will be very hard to get a tack sharp image.
Robber fly with prey

How to get the shot?

Be patient - When you are out in the field you will spend most of your time waiting.

Take lots and lots of shots - The more shots you take, the more images you will have to choose from in the end.

Shoot at eye-level - The impact of your photos will be so much better when you are shooting at eye-level or below, because it allows you to show the subject as if you look at it from within the subject's own world.

Focus on the eyes - Does it have eyes? Focus on it! Photos of animals will not matter that much if the eyes are out of focus.

A tiny bit of luck - You cannot control nature, so yes you definitely need a tiny bit of luck!
As you have probably noticed, a lot of the technical details have been skipped.
My intention is to get you passionate about macro photography and about exploring this beautiful world we can't see with our naked eye.
If you’re interested in learning more, have any suggestions or questions, feel free to send me a message.