Photographing the Small
25 Apr 2010
Carlos Bohorquez Nassar called this technique "the poor man's macro." I first came across one of his photographs (ant's behind) using this technique a while back. I tried it, and liked the results. It would be months later when I would pick up my two 50mm lenses again to explore it further.
You need two 50mm f/1.8 lenses. (Other lenses might work. You just need to make sure that they both have the same front opening: 52mm, 67mm, etc.) One lens attached to your camera and the other in front of it, reversed. For most of the shots I used an aperture of f/4.5, except for "Tres" and "Daffodil" where I used a f/1.8 aperture, while the lens that was reversed was always wide open at f/1.8. This was the combination that I liked the most. One thing to note is that the area in focus is extremely narrow, perhaps a few millimeters. Setting different apertures on either lens does not seem to change the area in focus. Rather, what it does is change how much coverage you will get: Notice the dark edges on most of the photographs. That effect was the result of the aperture combination. The only adjustment I made was to light levels. No other adjustments were made.
Follow these simple guidelines:
1.Shoot manually. You are only photographing at one particular distance – about 1-2 centimeters from the end of the reversed lens to your subject. I have an older AF 50mm lens, and the barrel moves as it tries to focus. AF definitely gets in the way.
2.Hold your breath. Having such narrow depth of field makes photographing anything very difficult. You also have to make small movements because your subject quickly moves out of focus even with the slightest movement.
3. Shooting mode. I have used the burst mode a few times, especially when I'm having difficulty achieving focus. Just press the shutter and hold while you move in and out of focus. You might end with a lucky shot.
4. Leave your tripod at home. Setting up these shots with a tripod is almost impossible. It's very difficult to get the right angle, and a tripod will get in the way as you will be making very small adjustments.
5.Be patient. Take breaks as you put a lot of strain on your eyes. I can only do a few minutes at a time. Maintaining focus at only one distance can be exhausting for your eyes, so take lots of breaks..
6.Look for things that are small. You can be limited to what you can photograph. Very small things make for great subjects, though shooting parts of bigger things also works. Patterns and textures are perfect for this technique.
7.Try different angles. What's in focus is determined by the angle you're using. Again, a small adjustment to the angle you're shooting will have a great effect on what is in focus and out of focus. You can almost achieve a fisheye lens effect when shooting at about a 20° degree angle.