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4 Nov 2013

Today, I took on extreme macro photography at home since it was raining for most part of the afternoon. Although I've a brief idea on how it works, I've never try it before.

What is Extreme Macro Photography?

One should know that macro photography is a close-up photography of tiny subjects to reproduce life-size magnification using macro lenses. However, if there is a subject which is so tiny that even the best macro lens cannot produce a close-up life-size magnification, then extreme macro photography could help to do so.

Uses of Extreme Macro Photography

Many uses extreme macro photography on insects and bugs. This YouTube video will show you how this guy makes use of it to produce beautiful, breathtaking and amazing close-up pictures of insects and bugs.

While I'm inspired by him to also take pictures of insects/bugs using extreme macro photography, I wanted to understand more about the challenges and trade-offs by experimenting it on static objects first.

How to Take Extreme Macro Photographs

Based on my knowledge, there are typically 2 ways on how extreme macro photography can be done:
  • The 1st method is to attached a prime lens in a inverted manner to the camera using a reverse ring with filter threads i.e. the typical front of lens will be mounted onto the camera instead.
  • The 2nd method (which I've used) is to stacked 2 lenses together. The 1st lens will be attached as per normal to the camera, while the 2nd lens will be inverted and attached to the 1st lens using reverse ring with filter threads.  The shorter lens is typically used as the inverted lens as the magnification factor is equivalent to the focal length of the 1st lens divided by the focal length of the 2nd inverted lens.

Focusing Using Inverted lens?

Based on 2nd method, both the inverted and non-inverted lenses will be set to Manual Focus (MF) with a focusing distance set to infinity. To focus, simply move/adjust the distance of the entire camera nearer or farther away from the subject by looking through the view finder.

What are the Challenges and Trade-Offs?

#1: The magnification will be so amplified with the inverted lens that the focusing distance to the subject is only about 2-3 cm from the tip of the lens. At this point, I really wonder how to take extreme macro photography of insects/bugs without them fleeing away at such a distance. In fact, I really admire those who did it.

#2: With such magnification, any slightest movement and you could be out of the point that you want to focus on. This however can be overcome if the camera is using a macro focusing rail on tripod.

#3: The Depth of Field (DOF) is very shallow. Even going on small aperture like (F/16), the DOF is probably about 1mm only.

Results of My Extreme Macro Photography Using Static Objects

So I had my camera and lenses setup on a tripod (without macro focusing rail). To focus, I had to manually hold the object with one hand at a 2-3cm distance from the tip of the lenses, and adjusting the distance of the object while looking through the view finder for the focus point that I wanted. I had the other hand triggering off the shot using a remote trigger.

The following pictures are my results - each picture is equivalent to a width of 4mm in real-life at only 50% magnification. See if you can tell what are them :) (Tips: Move mouse over image for the description of image.)

Blades of Philips AquaTouch Shaver
Thumb wheel of a Lighter
Old Earpiece
Scotch Brite Sponge
Pen Tip of Blue Highlighter
Zipper of a Wallet
Grains of Ginger Tea Premix Pack
Band-Aid (or First Aid Band)
Edge of a Fruit Knife
Surface of Cream Biscuit

Please visit to see a large view and magnification of the photos …