Closeup filters, or macro filters as they are sometimes known, are awesome. They're a relatively cheap alternative to a dedicated macro lens, which not only takes up space in your bag and adds weight, but saves you money if macro isn't a big part of what you enjoy to shoot. You can find sets of these closeup filters for as low as $10 at places like amazon and b&h. Theyre so cheap that even if you've never gotten into macro before, this is a nice, cheap way of dipping your toes in to test the waters. Some people spend a buck or two on an app and get some enjoyment out of it for a little while, this could be your photographic equilivent. ;) Keep in mind that these won’t give you a true 1:1 macro experience.
Closeup filters, or lenses if you will, work almost in a way that's similar to a magnifying glass. They allow you to essentially, stay with me here, get closer to your subject. I know, it's crazy right? Usually these sets come in increments of +1, +2, +4 and +10. I've seen other variations in diopter strength, but these are the typical strengths. You can also find more expensive ones if you feel like investing a little more money, but not enough to want a true macro lens. The great thing about them is that they're stackable. You can get +17 just from stacking the four mentioned above. It might look ridiculous, but it's effective. You'll definitely lose some sharpness (and gain some chromatic aberration) though by stacking all of that glass on the end of your lens. Honestly, it’s not really that big of a deal though. Especially since you’ll practically be inside your subject at that point anyway. Another thing to look out for is to make sure you’ve got the correct filter thread size for the lens that you want to use it on. To see what the filter size is for your lens, just look for a ø symbol somewhere on the lens. If you can’t find it, you can always google “lens name” and “filter thread size” and it should come right up.
I’d recommend using manual focus as autofocus gets a little “wonky”, to use a technical term. You’ll also have better, or at least more usable, photos if you use a smaller aperture. This means stopping down your lens to somewhere around the f11-22 range. Now of course your results may vary as I’ve gotten some great shots at f5.6 before, but the smaller the aperture, the larger the number, the more you’ll have in focus. You can see from these examples here and the ones in the video above just how shallow the depth of field can get at close range, especially once you start increasing the strength of the filters. There's all kinds of formulas and things that you can use to figure out how much range you'll have with each filter strength and lens that you use it on, but I'm not going to get too crazy in depth with that. The important thing to note is that your depth of field, the focal plane, is affected by a few key things.
One of these is the magnification level of the filter. The higher the magnification, the less range you have between the closest and furthest thing in focus. Another thing that affects the depth of field is the focal length of the lens you're attaching the filter too. The longer the lens, the more range you'll have in focus. An added benefit to using telephoto is that you can have a "macro" lens at a range you normally wouldn't find for a dedicated macro lens. This means you can step further away from your subject and still fill the frame with them. It's much easier to not scare furry little woodland creatures this way. The depth of field is also affected by the distance you are from the subject you want to be in focus. The farther back you step, the more range you'll have as the subject will become smaller in the frame. Of course this makes it less "macro" and more of a teleconverter, but hey, it's nice to know that you can get multiple uses out of your purchase. Keep in mind though that you lose the ability to focus at infinity with these, so you can only step back so far before you aren’t able to focus any longer.
At the end of the day, these super awesome macro closeup filter lenses are a fun and cheap way to try out something new. If you're in a creative slump or just want to add to your creative repertoire, you should at the very least check these out. If you've got any photos you've taken with a closeup filter, then go ahead and leave a link to them in the comments below. I love seeing what creative things people can come up with when trying out a new technique or using a new piece of equipment. If you have any other tips or tricks to add to the things I've mentioned, then feel free to leave some advice for others, or even me, in the comments below. Have fun and hopefully you'll check out some more of the tutorials and advice I have here.
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