Last week I came across this post from Photojojo where they removed a lens and placed it backwards against the camera to replicate macro-type photos. Interesting concept, but I have a method that is almost as inexpensive and provides the photographer with greater control.
Macro photography is a type of photography that has intrigued me, especially when it comes to flowers. I had the opportunity to borrow a friends Nikon 105mm macro lens back in 2008 (see one of my photos shot with the lens on the right) and my desire to obtain one of these expensive pieces of glass was intensified. I told this to a mentor of mine and he gave me a piece of advice that I could barely believe. He said that inexpensive close-up filters are a great tool for duplicating the macro effect for a hobbyist like me.
Earlier this year I spent $18 on a set of three Adorama close-up filters (+1, +2, +4) that fit my Nikon 50mm 1.8D lens. After testing the filters out on several subjects, I was able to capture macro-type photographs similar to the dedicated macro lens (see one of my photos taken with a close-up filter to the left).
How do they work?
Close-up filters simply screw on to the end of your lens. That’s the easy part. Once your behind a close-up filter you realize that you have to get really close to the subject in order to bring it into focus. Getting used to the shallow depth of focus is more difficult, but it just takes practice. Unlike the Photojojo solution, with close-up filters you can control the focus and depth of field. You get all this while holding your camera as you normally would. When shooting macro, I prefer to focus manually because each movement of the focus ring has such a great effect on the section of your subject that is in focus. It’s also best to use a tripod if you can, but I find that shooting hand held is easier when shooting low-to-the-ground subjects like flowers.
I have been really pleased with the results I have obtained with the close-up filters. To the left is an example of a purple cone flower that I shot in my backyard Saturday right after an afternoon rain. I used the +4 filter, ISO 400, f/4.5 and hand held the camera. This photo is full-frame with no crop and is a great example of the types of photographs you can obtain with the inexpensive close-up filters. You can view other flower photos taken with the close-up filters in my Portfolio.
What’s your experience?
Have you used close-up filters? If you have, leave a comment and let me know your experience or any tips to pass along.