I have been messing around with some Macro Photography using the techniques (and a reversal ring) described in a blog post by @ElendilTheTall My main issue is that I am having a hard time getting the subject into focus. There are times when the center is blurred and the outside is in focus or the center in focus and the outside out of focus. What are ways to get as much of the subject in focus?

I am using a Nikon D5100, I have a 18-55mm kit lens but I find the 55-200mm lens easier to use for shooting.


2 Answers 2


That is part of the art and difficulty of macro photography. As with all lenses, only one plane is in perfect focus and everything closer and further will be blurry.

The only thing to do to maximize depth-of-field in one shot is to pick a small aperture. It is recommended to use something up to the diffraction limit of your camera which should be about F/16, otherwise the whole frame becomes blurry.

Once you have a certain depth-of-field, you should take advantage of it by placing the focus somewhere in the middle (as measured in sensor-distance) of what you want to appear sharp. The common rule of thumb is that depth-of-field is 1/3 in front and 2/3 in back of the place of focus.

The other option you have it to take multiple shots and merge them together using a technique called Focus Stacking. Each shot should be taken at the same aperture but with a different point in focus. There are specialized software to do that (just search for the term) but Exposure Fusion software also do it (because of how they work).

  • \$\begingroup\$ heliconsoft.com/heliconfocus.html is another software for the focus stacking \$\endgroup\$
    – K''
    Apr 13, 2012 at 3:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ I have thought of doing Focus Stacking (though I did not know the term for it) using Photoshop. I will mess with the aperture a bit and see what I get. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$
    – L84
    Apr 13, 2012 at 4:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ The problem with smaller apertures with reversing rings, apart from the obvious lack of fine control, is that you also have a dark viewfinder, so it can be hard to focus unless you have plenty of light. A bit of trial and error is usually necessary. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 13, 2012 at 9:10
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ The common 1/3 2/3 rule is a pretty blunt approximation, at long distances the depth of field will be almost all behind the plane of focus, whereas at macro distances the ratio approaches 1:1, so just place the plane of focus in the middle! \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Apr 13, 2012 at 10:15
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ You can also use live-view to focus when doing macro work with a very narrow aperture. You can usually zoom in in live view for better focusing. A good macro focusing rail can be extremely helpful when it comes to focusing macro shots, since at 1:1 you really don't have a whole lot of options outside of moving the camera, and without a rail that is a rough and error-prone process at best. You won't really have to worry about dark viewfinder with a focusing rail, and you should be able to nail the focal plane right where you want it with a nice bit live-view image to work with. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Apr 14, 2012 at 1:53

It's a common problem with macro photography, and even more so with reversal rings.

Some recommendations:

  • Shoot stopped down to maximized what little DoF you do have.

  • use a small led flashlight on your subject to help brighten the VF or LCD while you compose and focus.

  • Use the LCD to compose and focus. Zoom it right in on the area you want in focus, and tweak focus. This is effectively "pixel peeping" on the fly, and will ensure you achieve the best focus. Coupled with the LED flashlight trick, this works wonders (on stationary objects, obviously).

  • Shoot flat objects that are directly parallel to the sensor, this will minimize areas of the shot that go in and out of focus due to shallow DoF. Remember, it's not good enough to shoot a flat object, if you shoot it on an angle, parts of the object are still closer/further from the imaging medium.


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