Macro photography allows us to capture things not normally seen with the naked eye, making it appealing to everyone from newbies to pros. But with a good macro lens costing upwards of $800, close-ups can be quite an expensive sub-category to add to your arsenal. Or is it? With a few DIY-style rigs, you can get up close on the cheap.

Got a lens? Put it on backwards.

ReverselensingImage: Digital Camera World

You read that right—install your lens backwards. It’s a trick called reverse mounting and adds magnification to any lens you already have in your kit. Digital Camera World shared an excellent tutorial on how to do just that, as well as adding an extension tube to enhance the magnification even further. All it takes is a basic cardboard toilet paper roll, a lens cap, some neoprene or black paper and a few tools. When using the reverse lensing technique, you must use manual modes, automatic ones won’t work with the electronic sensors on the lens not attached to the camera.

Beware though, that a DIY reverse mount risks damage to your camera and lens. We recommend searching Amazon for a rig that corresponds with your camera and lens’ thread size first, since you can often find them for under $20, like this aperture-enabled version for Nikons or this one for Canons.

Tinfoil hats are in—as flash diffusers, anyways

DIYDiffuserImage: Peta Pixel

Building your own flash diffuser doesn’t present nearly as much risk to damaging your gear as build a reverse mount adapter, and if your DIY skills fail on this project, you’re pretty much just out some time and tin foil. Ben Lzicar shared a tutorial to build an inexpensive flash diffuser for macro photography. He combined cardboard, tinfoil, duct tape, glue and packing foam sheets for a diffuser that costs about $15 if you don’t already have the basic materials on hand.

The cardboard, coated on the inside with the tinfoil, redirects the light, while the packing sheets diffuse the light at the end. Bubble wrap or even plain paper can also work, Lzicar suggests. To make attaching and reattaching to the flash easier, he also used Velcro.

Ring light? No problem.

Can it really be this easy to build a ring light? This video tutorial shows you how to construct an LED ring light with just a few basic materials. A CD spindle with a hole cut in the middle serves as the base, while battery-powered string-style LEDs provides the light.


Cool, huh?

Why not make an entire macro studio?

If building your own macro lens and flash isn’t enough, why not construct your own studio entirely? In this video tutorial, Peter Little demonstrates his macro set-up that includes basic items like paper as well as fun ones—like Kinex. It’s a longer video, but don’t worry, the British accents make it an enjoyable one.


Sometimes, photography isn’t about what you can create with a camera, but about what you create for the camera in order to take the picture. From an entire lens to a complete studio set-up, it is possible to shoot macro on a budget.

Feature image by Thomas Shahan, Flickr Creative Commons

About The Author

When Hillary Grigonis isn't writing, she's shooting—with her camera that is. A freelance writer and photographer, she's always keeping track of the latest photography news and gadgets. Follow her on Facebook or Google+.

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