Macro Photography...on a budget
16 Dec 2008
If you want to take close-up pictures but can't afford a true macro lens, a cheaper option is to use close-up lenses. I've been saving up a macro lens for a while now (canon 60mm macro-$359.00), but with money being really tight I decided to try close up lens for now. These screw onto the front of the main camera lens and act like magnifying lenses. They can be used individually or stacked to provide +1, +2, +3, +4, +5, +6,-+10. I was able to buy a set of 4 for $20.00 off of ebay. I found it most useful to use them with a lens that opens up to a wide aperture to let a good amount a light in. I bought a set to fit my canon 50mm 1.8 lens.
Focusing: I found focusing to be quite tricky because of the very shallow depth of field (DOF). Not to mention that adding this extra glass gives a blur when looking through the view finder. To establish focus, I had to move the camera and tripod until the subject was approximately in focus. I then used Manual Focusing for fine adjustments. I found that manual focusing gives more predictable results especially with the the +10 lens.
Lighting: I found it quite useful to use some artificial light, which helps a lot with focusing issues. I used my canon flash for most of my shots. Another option might be to use some other source of artificial light (strobe or halogen) or to invest in a reflector to help make the most of available light. Experiment with different methods of lighting your subjects. I tried a few household items inside, and then went outside to try out natural light. Natural light seems to work very well, especially early in the morning. A tripod is not necessary but is quite useful in many cases, and if you have a remote trigger that would also work great.
Having said that, I found close-up lenses to be a good starter method for macro photography. I hope this article has inspired to buy your own set. It is a tremendous amount of fun, and in the process you are likely to learn a lot about photography and optics: Which, in turn, will improve your overall photography performance and by the time you save up a macro lens you'll be more than ready.