5 Excellent Macro Photography Accessories and How to Use Them

Getting up close reveals an entirely different world of photography — but few cameras are capable of macro photography without a few accessories or modifications. Macro photography accessories allow for extreme close-ups, freeing photographers from the limitations of their gear that often can’t focus at short distances. While a top-of-the-line macro lens is nice, other macro photography accessories allow photographers to experiment with the medium without even venturing into triple digit spending. Here are the macro photography accessories that boost those close-ups — and how to use them.

Macro Photography Accessories: Macro Lens

For avid macro photographers, a macro lens allows for unmodified close-ups without losing features like autofocus. A true macro lens will allow for a 1:1 reproduction ratio, though some manufacturers label lenses as a macro with smaller ratios. Macro lenses come in all different focal lengths, with the telephoto for close-ups of skittish subjects and the medium focal lengths for really getting in physically close.

Using a macro lens isn’t much different from using a kit lens. The difference? Macro lenses often have a switch on the barrel that allows you to switch between focusing up close and using the lens to photograph objects at a more normal distance.

Macro Photography Accessories: Reversing Rings

Don’t have a macro lens? You probably do but don’t realize it — you just need to put the lens on backward. Placing a lens on the camera backward flips the camera’s optical elements so that a wide-angle lens can get up quite close. This works best with lenses with aperture control on the barrel, but if you don’t have one of those, you just have to work with the lens’ maximum aperture.

To use a reversing ring, you attach the ring to the front of the lens just like you’d screw on a filter, but then you use that ring to mount the lens to the camera body backward. With this macro photography accessory, you’ll need to do everything manually, including focus and exposure, but you can get great close-ups cheap.

Macro Photography Accessories: Extension Tubes

By placing more distance between the glass inside your camera lens and the camera sensor, you can get closer to the subject. Like reversing rings, this macro photography accessory turns almost any lens into a macro lens, though it works best with short to mid-range lenses. If you have a lens with the aperture control on the barrel, you can buy the less expensive, electronics-free version; if you adjust the aperture settings on your camera body rather than the lens, you’ll want one with the electronics to communicate with your camera.

To use an extension tube, simply mount the tube on the lens, then mount your lens on the other side. Like other macro techniques, a tripod will often help get sharper results, since using extension tubes limits the light that reaches the camera sensor some.

Macro Photography Accessories: Ring Lights

Because macro shots emphasize a shallow depth of field and require narrower apertures, artificial lighting is sometimes necessary. A ring light is the most popular macro photography accessory for lighting. By wrapping the light around the lens, photographers can add light without adding artificial shadows.

To use a ring light, the accessory is mounted both around the lens and in the hot shoe slot. Another option is to hold the ring portion off to one side for more directional lighting with the same softer shadows.

Macro Photography Accessories: Rail Focusing

A macro rail is a device that’s designed for focus stacking, a technique that allows you to blend multiple photos for a sharper depth of field. This rail allows you to make minor camera movements precisely.

To use a macro rail, mount the camera on the rail, then use the knobs to make small adjustments in between shots for focus stacking, or for more precise focusing on single shots. The precise adjustments allow you to get an exact focus, despite the shallow depth of field.

Macro photography accessories can help you get a sharper, closer shot. Alongside accessories exclusively used for macro work, other items, like a tripod, can come in handy too.

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