BUDGET Macro Photos: Use Extension Tubes—Not a Special Lens (VIDEO)

There’s a bunch of photographers out there who’d like to shoot macro images once in a while, but not often enough to justify purchasing an expensive, dedicated lens. Today we’re going to show you how to get started shooting close-ups on the cheap.

Then if you enjoy this style of photography you can make the jump to a more versatile (and costly) macro lens. In barely 15 minutes you’ll see how to use extensive tubes as a budget-friend alternative, learn the advantages and disadvantages of taking this approach, and pick up several solid tips for achieving optimum results.

British pro Paul Miguel is a versatile outdoor photographer specializing in everything from macro and backyard animals, to landscapes in the wilds of Iceland. This behind-the-scenes episode is all about capturing impressive close-up and macro images without breaking the bank.

As you watch Miguel go about his shoot using a cheap, unbranded set of extension tubes, he describes how these accessories work as compared to a lens designed specifically for macrophotography. As he says, “personally I think they can work well with a prime lens.”

While demonstrating his tips in the field, Miguel employs both a 13mm and an 18mm tube on his Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens. Extension tubes typically come in a set of several different lengths. Miguel explains that the extension tube is mounted between the camera body and whatever lens is in use. The reason they’re so inexpensive is that they’re hollow—without any optical elements.

By extending your lens further from the camera body you’ll be able to focus much closer than with the same lens alone. While your results won’t be comparable to images made with a macro lens that costs hundreds of dollars more, you’ll be able to capture impressive photos by following Miguel’s advice.

Miguel discusses the ramifications of of focusing range, the loss of infinity, implications for sharpness, the possibility of vignetting, and the amount of light lost when an extension tube is attached to a lens. A set of extension tubes is so affordable that you really have little to lose.

So watch the video, give this a try, and see what you think. There’s much more to learn about all sorts of outdoor photography on Miguel’s instructional YouTube channel, so head over there and see what tickles your fancy.

And be sure to check out the helpful tutorial we posted recently, explaining another pro’s five favorite tips for shooting fantastic fall photos.