Can You Do Macro Photography With A 50mm Lens

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Desire to shoot macro, but tin’t afford the big ticket prices for a “real” macro lens?

Read on to see how you can plow your piddling 50mm f/1.8 lens into a sweet macro photography toy for under $20 (if y’all already ain the lens)

I found out about this little known, clandestine technique, over a year ago merely just recently got all the pieces to actually practise it right and create some images. It also took me a while to find the right lens reversal ring, so to save you time I’ve linked to all the major brands beneath.

Pros and cons of 50mm lens reversal

There are some adept and some challenging things about using this technique. Here’south a list of some of the pros and cons.


  • really cheap
    to practise especially if yous already have a 50mm lens
  • fun to play with
    super shallow depth of field
  • smashing way to meet if you lot like shooting macro
    and want to invest the money in a special macro lens


  • lens shoots wide opened

    (unless you have a lens with the aperture dial on the lens itself or you use DOF Preview to lock it before reversing the lens)
  • super shallow depth of field, we’re talking tiny, millimetres then y’all need to be precise
  • autofocus does non function
    so you focus by moving in and out until you lot find focus
  • utilise of a tripod is challenging
    considering of the above point
  • is a niggling bit catchy
    to get the focus and exposure right
Nikon with lens mounted backwards

Macro magnification and other lens options

I’1000 already a huge fan of the 50mm f/ane.viii lens and recommend you have one in your handbag if y’all don’t already. I wrote about it in this commodity: Why a 50mm Lens is your new Best Friend on Digital Photography School. If you’re already on lath with me y’all can do this niggling trick. Information technology can really be done with any lens just a 50mm will requite yous a ane:1 or true macro scale image. Long lenses will non give you as much magnification and wide angle lenses will give you more (28mm is nigh iii:ane). All you lot actually need to try information technology is a lens reversal ring that will cost you less than $20 and you’re ready to shoot.

Shot using the 50mm normally
Shot using the 50mm normally
Shot using the 50mm mounted backwards
Shot using the 50mm mounted backwards
Shot using the 50mm mounted backwards
Shot using the 50mm mounted backwards

Technique and tips

#1 It’s pretty unproblematic to do this technique.

In one case you have the lens reversal band, adhere information technology to the front of your lens and mountain the lens backwards so the rear lens element is facing out. Take care not to impairment the rear element while shooting or the electric contacts.

#ii Prepare your camera mode to Manual.

Yous volition likely come across “F00” where it shows discontinuity, that’s normal considering it just means the camera tin can’t read the aperture from the lens.

#iii You tin prepare your exposure using the photographic camera meter simply it may be a flake off.
Check the histogram and adapt accordingly using the shutter speed or ISO to get more than or less light.

#4 If you want a smaller aperture you can shut down the lens merely you have to starting time mountain it on the right way around.

Set it to the discontinuity you want, say f/8. Press the Depth of Field preview push button (check your manual if you aren’t sure where it is on your camera) and agree it downwards WHILE dismounting the lens from the torso. Doing and then volition lock it at f/viii.

#five Focus by moving back and forth until you see something abrupt.

If y’all have a focus track tripod caput designed for macro photography that may help.

The following images are all shot in the same field of the aforementioned niggling found.

Shot using the 50mm normally
Shot using the 50mm usually
Shot using the 50mm mounted backwards
Shot using the 50mm mounted backwards
Shot using the 50mm mounted backwards
Shot using the 50mm mounted backwards
Shot using the 50mm mounted backwards
Shot using the 50mm mounted backwards

Other options:

Another method of lens reversal which I haven’t tried all the same is using two lenses.

Basically you mount one lens as usual on the camera. Then y’all take your 50mm and adhere it to the front of the other lens.

The benefits are yous have total control of the aperture for the lens mounted the right way and the one mounted backwards becomes a big shut-upwards filter. Filters are another option for macro photography simply they are ordinarily of lower quality that virtually of the other methods.

Using a lens as a close-up filter gives you better optics. All yous need to practise this is a “coupling ring” or “coupler” to adhere them firmly together.

List of equipment needed:


  • 50mm f1/eight lens
  • Lens reversal ring to fit the 50mm lens 52mm filter band size


  • 50mm f/1.eight AF-Southward lens with autofocus, get the FX one if you lot think you might ever upgrade to full frame cameras
  • 50mm f/i.8D AF lens (manual focus) will work great for this purpose but is always manual focus. Advantage of this lens is you tin can adjust the aperture on information technology separately.
  • Fotodiox 58mm Filter Thread Lens, Macro Reverse Ring for Nikon Camera with 58mm filter thread lens



For more learning on macro photography

Outset read the Ultimate Guide to Macro Photography. Then consider reading my interview with macro photographer Don Komarechka

Up Close

a Craft and Vision ebook by Andrew South. Gibson.

macro photography lens tips for turning a 50mm lens into a macro photography lens. Perfect for doing macro photography without a macro lens


If this type of photography interests you and y’all haven’t got a macro lens yet, why not give this try? What practise you have to lose, $x for a reversal ring? I say give information technology a go! If you lot’ve got another tips for macro photography or have a not bad shot y’all’d like to share please exercise and so in the comments below!

As always take fun and get out there doing photography!


Darlene is an educator who teaches aspiring amateurs and hobbyists how to better their skills through her articles hither on Digital Photo Mentor, her beginner photography course, and individual tutoring lessons. To assistance you at any level you lot’re at she has two email mini-courses. Sign upwards for her complimentary beginner OR portrait photography e-mail mini-course. Or get both, no charge!


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