Using A Macro Tube For Macro Photography


A Macro tube can help you do macrophotography without having to purchase a new lens. Macrophotography is doing photography of small things to make them fill the frame with your subject. For more information on macrophotography, you can view my previous post here. There are a few ways to do macrophotography. The first is to purchase a dedicated macrophotography lens. But since we all probably spend way more on lens glass than we should, I’m going to show you a way to use an existing lens and something called a macro tube. Using a macro tube for macrophotography will allow you to begin doing photography of small things without spending tons of money on a new lens.

The photo below is an example of what you can achieve using a macro tube and a lens you already own.

macro tubes berries

We want to give you tips and tricks about how to take great photos with affordable tools. So let’s look at my set of macro rings and a few photos I shot with those rings. The set of macro rings I bought are available at the link below.

Below are the three rings separated. The rings come in different lengths to allow you to move the lens you are using closer or farther away from the camera body. It’s this movement away from the image sensor that allows you to decrease the minimum focal distance of your lens. The physics of how this works is beyond the scope of this article. You can go here to explore the way it works further.

macro tubes

This set of rings allows you to move your lens at different distances from the camera sensor. This allows flexibility in the use of lenses with different minimum focus distances. Below is a shot of my full-frame Canon 5Ds with the largest macro ring between the camera body and my Canon 18-135 macro zoom lens. This is already a macro lens with a minimum focusing distance of 1.6ft. While this is good for flowers, larger insects, etc. it is not enough for tiny flowers or insects.

macro ring on 5Ds

With this macro ring in place, the minimum focusing distance is greatly reduced. The following are some photos I shot with this ring in place.

lime blossom

Tiny bloom beginning to develop on a lime tree.

rose hips

Rose Hips

tiny purple flowers

Tiny Purple Flowers

Lighting When Using A Macro Tube

When shooting macro images using a macro tube, you have to use apertures in the f11 to f22 range to get an acceptable focal plane. The range in focus will be very thin when doing macrophotography, and anything not on the focal plane will be out of focus. To get as much of the subject in focus as possible, you need to use small apertures. This also cuts down on the light entering through your lens due to the small aperture. Two ways to overcome this are to use a Speedlight or a ring flash. I use both and it really depends on your needs. I like the Speedlight better when I need the flash and I have a stationary subject that I can set the Speedlight up on a tripod, such as in the images above. However, for insects and other small critters that move constantly, the ring flash works better. The reason a ring flash works better is that you are so close to the subject, the Speedlight may not be able to deflect down enough to light the subject properly. Although, you may be able to use a diffuser and bounce the soft light onto your subject. Even with the use of flash, it may be necessary to bump up your ISO to 400 or even 800. Experiment with your settings until you get the results you want.

Macrophotography can be tough to master, but once you start having fun shooting tiny objects you may just get hooked like I have.

If you want to learn more and take your photography journey to the next level, you might like the Photography Master Class. This video course will definitely help you on your journey to be a better photographer.

Check out more great photography tips on our Photography Tips & Tricks page.