How To Choose The Best Macro Accessories
Don Orkoskey | March 2, 2023
Choose The Best Macro Accessories
Learn how to choose the best macro accessories to create incredible, larger than life, macro photos. Getting started with macro photography can leave you asking a lot of questions.
None of those questions are bigger than; how can I create the photos I want to take without spending a fortune on expensive lenses and other equipment?
Photography is expensive enough already. You don't need to break the bank to create stunning macro photos. In this article I'm going to share my favorite accessories that will help you create macro photos that wow people.
Macro Photos Without A Macro Lens
The first thing to understand is that we can create incredible macro photos without a macro lens. I wrote an article about just that over at my website, WDOphoto.com. Of course it makes sense to have a really good sharp lens but nearly all modern lenses made for digital cameras should work - even kit lenses.
Macro Lens Alternatives
There are a number of alternatives for taking macro photos without a macro lens. These alternatives include extension tubes, close-focus filters, reversal rings and lens couplers, and bellows.
Out of these alternatives the easiest macro accessories to use are extension tubes and close-focus filters. Using reversal rings often requires finding a way to lock the aperture open. Couplers allow us to attach two lenses together but have the same issue with the aperture as reversal rings. Finally, bellows are large and can often hold dust.
You can find some decent low cost extension tubes that will allow your electronics to work between your lens and your camera. However, these lower prices extension tubes often have reflective surfaces inside of them. These reflections can leave a washed out spot in the center of your images which is a really annoying tendency.
Beware of Washout
If you don't want strange light, washed out spots in the middle of your photos then I highly recommend spending a little more for higher quality extension tubes. One set that I've heard great things about though I've not tested them myself are the Kenko brand tubes.
The Best Extension Tubes
Here is a link to the Kenko brand extension tubes for different systems (Canon, Nikon, Sony) on Amazon. Some camera manufacturers make their own extension tubes. Here is a link to some Canon brand extension tubes which have flocking in them to block reflections making them a great choice for Canon users. Fujifilm also makes their own which are similarly reflection free. Here is a set of Fujifilm extension tubes.
Extension tubes have no glass in them but close-focus filters are literally a glass filter for your lens. This means that if you buy cheap close-focus filters you might be really disappointed in the results you get.
Selecting The Best Close-Focus Filters
Other Great Macro Photography Accessories
There's more to great macro photography than getting tiny objects in focus so here are some other great macro photography accessories. A lot of photographers start to do macro in natural light.
First, let me say that there's nothing really wrong with natural light photography. However, if you want to create the best macro photos then adding light is critical. We can add light in several ways. Usually we use either a flash or constant lights such as those from an LED panel.
Constant light like that provided by LED panels are really helpful. They allow us to directly see how the light is hitting our subject. The best lights I've found are from Lume Cube. The only downside to LED lights is that they are not quite as bright as flash so let's talk about flashes.
Using camera flash in macro photography allows us total control over our exposure. We can use the flash duration to control time rather than worry about shutter speed. Additionally, when defused it gives us such beautiful light. A good flash and diffuser are the best macro accessories you can choose.
The Best Flash For Macro
In my opinion the best flash units for macro are those which give you a wide range of control over their light levels. With macro you are unlikely to use full power. It's far more likely that you'll be setting your flash at 1/16th or 1/32nd power. Being able to go down to 1/64th will allow you to work even closer to your subject and to freeze any motion.
Save Money on Macro Flash Units
If you search for macro flash units you'll find all sorts of expensive accessories. Save your money though because there are lots of flash units for macro that are affordable and which work great.
I'm a big fan of the Godox TT600. It's power setting goes down to 1/128th. Plus it's well under $100. Godox makes great flash units. I have several of them. Another option are flash units from Yongnuo. They're another Chinese brand that are making some solid flash units.
Don't go in for those ring-light style flash units. They're really not worth it. They don't allow you to diffuse the light properly and your photos won't look that good without being diffused.
Macro Photography Diffusers
Thankfully these diffusers are inexpensive and super portable. I use one from Angler (pictured here) but you can use any brand. A lot of macro photographers swear by the Pope Shield. Their photos look incredible but I've also heard that shipping takes a while.
Other great macro photo accessories
There are other great macro photo accessories out there. From tripods and rail systems to brackets and clips that allow you to hold plants still there are a lot. Additionally there are accessories that help you find macro subjects and keep yourself and your camera dry but the accessories listed above are it for now.