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Top 30 accessories for close-up photography

July 13, 2022

Macro and close-up needn’t be pricey. Tracy Calder, co-founder of Close-up Photographer of the Year, recommends 30 budget accessories starting from £1!


Possibly you have been put off from trying out macro or close-up photography because of the costs involved. With the cost-of-living crisis putting pressure on budgets, not to mention the rising costs of camera gear, it’s tempting to think that there are cheaper genres. But in fact you can still enjoy macro and close-up photography without a major outlay.

As well as a wide choice of quality second-hand macro lenses from trusted suppliers such as MPB, Park Cameras, Wex Photo Video, London Camera Exchange, CameraWorld, Ffordes and the other dealers who advertise in AP, you can also pick up lots of budget accessories for close-up photography as well as other genres. Indeed, you may already have some accessories – a kneeling mat for gardening or a pair of scissors are the obvious examples. Many of the budget acccessories we have identified can be pressed into service for other types of photography, too.

As we’ve seen in other articles, the beauty of macro and close-up photography is that it can be practised anywhere, including your home or garden. You don’t need to head off to an exotic location. Do let us know if you have any ingenious and cheap budget macro hacks by emailing ap.ed@kelsey.co.uk.


Best accessories for Close-up Photography

Bean bag: Wildlife Watching Supplies C14 Standard Double Bean Bag – £25

bean bag accessories for close-up photography

‘Obviously, tripods offer excellent stability and flexibility, but if I’m shooting on the ground, I often find that a bean bag does the job just as well – if not better! You can buy bags filled or unfilled, with or without liners, and some versions come with a detachable carrying strap.’ Tracy Calder, @cupoty

Right-angle viewfinder: Nikon DR-6 – £240

right angle viewfinder accessories for close-up photography

‘I use three cheap items for my close-up work: coloured pieces of cardboard to create interesting backgrounds, a flashlight to produce subtle lighting on my subjects (spiders) and a right-angle viewfinder. The viewfinder stops me from getting backache when I’m shooting close to the ground and it also allows me to find the exact corner of a web for optimum colours and reflections.’ Rob Blanken, www.robblankenphotography.com/spiders

LED light: Andoer 49 LED Camera Light – £15

led light

‘When I shoot insects or flowers, I always head out with a small LED device. They can be mounted to your camera via the hotshoe or handheld. They provide a continuous light source, so what you see is what you get – you simply adjust the output and position to achieve the effect you desire. These lights can be used to relieve dark, ugly shadows, or to light your subject creatively. I often hold one behind my subject to create a backlit effect.’ Ross Hoddinott, www.rosshoddinott.co.uk

Lens wipes: Zeiss Lens Wipes – £13 for 200

zeiss lens wipes

‘When you’re shooting at high magnifications, every speck of dust or grease has the potential to appear distracting in the final image. To save time in front of the computer cleaning up, make sure that you have some lens wipes in your bag. ZEISS Lens Wipes are great for cleaning everything from phone screens to binoculars and, of course, camera lenses!’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Lensbaby lens: Velvet 56 – £400

lensbaby lens accessories for close-up photography

‘If you want to achieve in-camera effects with evocative names such as swirl, twist, sweet and velvet, then take a look at the Lensbaby range. These lenses are available in a range of mounts and produce attractive, and often highly unexpected, results. Swirl or twist, for example, leads to swirly bokeh around a sharp central area, while velvet results in pictures with an attractive, velvety glow. The Velvet 56 is a popular choice with flower and portrait photographers. (Bear in mind these lenses are manual focus only.)’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Inexpensive macro lens: Olympus M.Zuiko ED 30mm f/3.5 – £250

Olympus M.Zuiko ED 30mm f/3.5 Macro accessories for close-up photography

Olympus M.Zuiko ED 30mm f/3.5 Macro

‘One of my favourite lenses is the cheapest macro lens I’ve ever owned: the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 30mm f/3.5. It’s a lightweight, plastic thing that’s super-sharp and has a focal length that is short enough to include some of the background. I just leave it in my pocket whenever I’m outdoors.’ Pål Hermansen, www.palhermansen.com

Sun hat: White Rock Men’s Outback Classic Hat – £32

sun hat

‘When I’m out in the field I always carry and wear a sun hat. If I don’t have a reflector/diffuser with me I can use the hat to temporarily shade my subject in a controlled and selective manner. Shading my subject, and exposing correctly for it, leads to a much lighter background, often producing a very pleasing result. It also helps to separate the subject from the background.’ Note too that sun hats also offer valuable protection against sunburn as well as helping to keep you dry. Mark James Ford, www.blauvista.com

Hire a lens: Fujifilm – Free 48-Hour Loan

lens hire

‘Before you commit to buying an expensive macro lens, try hiring one for a few days to see if it suits you. I recently borrowed a Fujifilm XF 80mm f/2.8 Macro lens via Fuji’s loan service. The first 48 hours were free, but I paid extra to keep the lens for seven days. The deposit is hefty (£600 in this case), but I had no issue with the refund, and I was offered money off if I went on to purchase the lens.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Shower cap: Wilko White Shower Cap – £1

white shower cap

‘I always keep a shower cap in my kit bag – they’re lightweight and take up no room. These caps are great for keeping sea spray, dew, rain and dust off my lenses and camera. You can use them multiple times too. I usually give one to my clients when I’m out running workshops.’ David Southern, www.southernphotography.co.uk

Bellows: Novoflex Balpro 1 Universal Bellows – £395

bellows accessories for close-up photography

‘Bellows work in much the same way as extension tubes: they move the lens further away from the focal plane (sensor) and reduce the minimum focusing distance. With bellows, you can position the lens further away from the camera/sensor than you can with tubes and move them forwards and backwards, allowing greater precision. You’ll get some light loss using bellows, but a set that maintains electrical contact (such as the Novoflex Balpro 1 Universal Bellows) will get around this.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Vintage lenses: Metabones Smart Adapter – £350

adapter for vintage lenses accessories for close-up photography

‘Pairing vintages lenses with modern cameras is understandably popular. They can produce unusual bokeh and imperfections that often result in unique, edgy work. You can get a basic adapter for about £20, though ones supporting AF are pricier. For close-up work, a Helios 44M 58mm lens is a fantastic choice, as you can pick one up for around £50. Trying out a vintage lens can make your work stand out.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Clothes peg: Addis Wooden Pegs – £3.50 for 36

clothing peg

‘In order to take a sharp macro photo on a windy day, I carry a clothes peg and a pipe cleaner in my pocket, which I use to peg or gently wrap the stem of a flower to keep it steady. However, I don’t use it if the flower is very flimsy as the peg can damage the stem. I’m always careful to leave an area as I found it – this is much more important than capturing a photograph.’ Mel Collie, www.melcollie.co.uk

Museum putty: QuakeHold Museum Putty – £9

museum putty

‘I often use reusable/removable museum putty. It’s brilliant for keeping photographic subjects in place, which can be a problem if you are shooting in any kind of breeze or less-than-ideal conditions. I keep some in a small container (it doesn’t dry out) in my studio, so that it’s close at hand for macro/close-up work.’ Elizabeth Kazda, www.elizabethkazda.myportfolio.com

Small LED torch: Unicozin LED Torch 2000 LM – £8

small torch accessories for close-up photography

‘A small LED torch can be invaluable when searching for small subjects in darker areas of woodland. By placing a small piece of packing foam over the beam it can also serve as an effective diffused light source for adding extra light to the shadows. You may already have one in the house or car and they can be picked up very cheaply, so this is a great budget accessory.’ Barry Webb, www.barrywebbimages.co.uk

Consider second-hand

‘Pre-loved camera gear is big business these days – everything from lenses and DSLRs to chargers and tripods can be found for as little as half the retail price. But if you’re in the market for a used macro lens (or any other lens, for that matter) there are a few things to consider: while dirt and grease can be removed, scratches, haze, chips and fungus are more of an issue.

It’s important to buy from a reputable retailer – eBay and Facebook Marketplace are great for many things, but you are taking a risk by buying privately. There is a wide range of quality dealers to buy from, many of which advertise in AP, and you usually get the benefit of a comprehensive pre-sale inspection and a warranty, too.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

See more of our second-hand content here.

Aperture controller: Fotodiox 52mm Reverse Mount Macro Filter – £20

aperture controller

‘If you want to go beyond 1:1 magnification, lens choice is limited. I use an 18-55mm kit lens as a macro lens, for more magnification. I reverse it and mount it on my camera using a reversing ring. The biggest challenge is controlling the aperture. Initially, I used a folded piece of paper to hold the aperture lever at the midpoint, but later I bought an aperture controller. The viewfinder gets very dark when I’m working in low light but the set-up gives me creative freedom.’ Ripan Biswas, Instagram @ripanbiswasphotography

Reflector/diffuser: Interfit 5-in-1 Reflector – £35 for 61cm version

reflector

‘Reflectors and diffusers control and shape light. For flowers or fungi, I use a diffuser to soften harsh sunlight and a reflector to bounce light to reveal small details. You can buy a 5-in-1 reflector/diffuser with reversible slip covers in gold, silver, white and black. The gold adds warmth, the silver coolness, the white delivers soft, even light and the black absorbs and blocks light. The intensity of this “bounced” light can be adjusted by moving the reflector closer or further away. The shiny side of tin foil can be used, too.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Close-up lens: NiSi Macro Close-Up Lens – £109

NC Macro Close-Up Lens 58-52-49mm - NiSi UK - NiSi Optics, NiSi Filters

NC Macro Close-Up Lens 58-52-49mm – NiSi UK – NiSi Optics, NiSi Filters

‘Close-up lenses (also known as supplementary lenses) screw to the front of your lens and effectively reduce the minimum focusing distance. The NiSi Close-Up Lens, for example, can transform a telephoto into a macro, without the associated price tag. (You can achieve near 1:1 magnification around the 200mm mark.)

You can also buy close-up lenses in different powers (or diopters) – the higher the number, the greater the magnification achieved. Using supplementary lenses does not reduce the amount of light reaching your sensor, or affect metering or focusing, but placing any extra glass in front of your lens obviously runs the risk of reducing image quality slightly.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Swimming accessories: Nabaiji Swimming Armbands – £4

swimming arm bands

‘I always keep a deflated children’s or adult’s armband/swimming aid in my backpack. Much of my macro photography is taken at ground level in bogs and wetland, and as a result, the ground is either damp or saturated. Half-inflating the armband, and nestling the body of the camera into it, creates a perfect waterproof bean bag, at a very cheap price. When I’m done, the armband can be rinsed off, deflated and kept in my backpack for another day.’ Tina Claffey, www.tinaclaffey.com

Focus stacking: Zerene Stacker – £159 for Prosumer Edition

‘Focus stacking enables you to increase the zone of acceptable sharpness by taking a series of pictures – each one concentrating on a slightly different focal plane – before blending them together. For the best results, it’s best to use dedicated software (such as Zerene Stacker), but before you hit download check if your camera already has in-camera focus stacking as an option. Some may only produce JPEGs, though.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Kneeling mat: Town and Country Kneeler Pad – £5.99

‘You might have packed extra batteries, memory cards etc, but getting wet and feeling uncomfortable will cut your photography trip short quicker than any missing (or full) bits of kit. If you’re shooting close to the ground, a pair of waterproof trousers is a good idea, but if you plan on being in one place for any length of time a garden kneeling mat can prevent you from getting soggy. Kneeling pads are seriously cheap, but you can also use a builder’s bag or bin bag to protect yourself from damp or boggy ground.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Scissors: Korbond general-purpose scissors – £2.50

‘I don’t go anywhere without kitchen scissors. I use them whenever I need to do ‘gardening’ – removing blades of grass or dead vegetation to tidy up a background. This needs to be done responsibly, and I never cut or damage wildflowers. The ability to quickly remove clutter is important when you’re shooting close-ups, because it helps to produce more aesthetically pleasing results. Another great budget solution.’ Ross Hoddinott, www.rosshoddinott.co.uk

Teleconverter – From around £250

teleconverter accessories for close-up photography

‘Teleconverters (also known as multipliers) fit between the camera and lens and help increase magnification. They come in various strengths, the most common being 1.4x and 2x. You can combine teleconverters with a macro lens to obtain magnifications beyond life-size and you can combine them with extension tubes. There will be some light loss and a slight reduction in image quality, but it’s worth it.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Try some DIY – A few pence to a few pounds

diy lens diffuser

‘There are lots of budget work-arounds to help you get great shots. I’ve seen a flash diffuser made out of a Pringles tube (see image above and a great guide at bit.ly/pringlesmacro), coloured filters made from sweet wrappers, or backgrounds fashioned out of everyday objects such as bank folders. YouTube is a great resource for DIY content, but there are also plenty of Facebook groups dedicated to specialist subjects such as homemade flash diffusers and modifying vintage lenses.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Flexible Helping Hands – £30

‘These ‘hands’ are designed to secure components when soldering, but I find them useful for holding flowers. You can hold several flowers at the same time and even have some out-of-focus at the back. You can even use the hands to hold card and shade flowers. Sadly, the arms are not strong enough to hold my light, but they do allow me to keep at least one hand free.’ Sophia Spurgin, Instagram @daughteruptree

Flexible tripod: GorillaPod 5K Stand – £90

joby gorillapod accessories for close-up photography

‘When you’re faced with uneven ground or tight spots during your macro or close-up work, a flexible tripod is an absolute must, and you can’t get more flexible than a set of GorillaPod legs. You can twist these legs around branches, stand them on their own or handhold them when you’re shooting videos. When you don’t want to carry the cost (or weight) of a standard tripod they can provide a good alternative, although for most macro work a standard set of legs still has the edge.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty

Mini tripod: Manfrotto PIXI Mini – £25

mini manfrotto tripod accessories for close-up photography

‘I sometimes carry a small tripod (a Manfrotto PIXI mini), which I combine with an affordable mobile phone holder (made by Jiabao). Both these items are small enough to fit into a small rucksack or deep coat pocket, and they help me to hold everything steady. Mini tripods can be useful for other types of photography too.’ Mel Collie, www.melcollie.co.uk

Foil cake board: Hobbycraft Silver 10in Round Cake Drum – £2.30

silver cake drum accessories for close-up photography

‘For me, a foil cake board is indispensable. My glass bottle photography relies on natural light and to enhance this I use the cake boards as simple reflectors – using gold or silver, smooth or textured ones to get varying effects. I might place them behind the bottle or I stand the bottle on them to bounce light through the glass and enhance the colours.’ Rachel McNulty, Instagram @rachelmcnultyphotography

Extension tubes: Kenko Extension Tube Set – £130

Kenko Teleplus DG AF extension tube set accessories for close-up photography

‘I often use extension tubes when I need more magnification. They fit between the lens and the camera, increasing the distance between the focal plane (sensor) and the lens, thus reducing the minimum focusing distance. Most modern versions allow your camera and lens to communicate, but older versions might not, so you might lose AF and automatic metering, and there’ll be some light loss.’ Juan Ahumada, www.jjgahumada.com

Third-party macro lens: Sigma 105mm f/2.8 DG DN Macro – £700

macro lens accessories for close-up photography

‘Sometimes staying camera-brand loyal costs more. Sigma has the superb 105mm f/2.8 DG DN Macro Art lens and the 70mm f/2.8 DG Macro Art lens, while Tamron offers the 90mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Macro lens and Tokina has the atx-i 100mm f/2.8 FF Macro. Think about how much magnification you actually need (do you really need 1:1, life-size, for instance) and what sort of working distance you require. If you’re shooting insects, for example, you’ll want the ability to create frame-filling pictures while still keeping your distance.’ Tracy Calder, Instagram @cupoty


Liked our round-up of accessories for close-up photography? You can see more budget accessories and accessory ideas in our accessories for travel round-up and in our reviews.

The ultimate guide to tripods

Disclaimer: The prices mentioned in this article were chosen based on those who had stocks at the exact time of writing this article. The availability of stocks will vary over time, so please don’t forget to check all the latest stockists and prices before purchase.


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