Category Archives: Macro Photography

Learn to use your Canon Rebel for macro (close-up) photography

Spring Photo – Bradford Pear Blossom

Spring – Charge up your batteries and be prepared!

I love spring, but over the last 2-3 years, the weather has been very warm. Spring is over in a few weeks, and summer is here. It looks like that will happen again this year. Flowers bloom and wilt in just a few days. For example, my daffodils bloomed a couple of weeks early and lasted less than a week.

That’s why the title. Keep your camera ready and available.

Bradford Pear Blossom MacroThis photo was taken on a cloudy morning. The conditions were perfect for the kind of results I was trying to achieve. I wanted a very artistic feel to this picture, and I think it looks pretty good.

The Technique

My neighbor has two small Bradford pears, one of which is right next to my driveway. The location is perfect, yet most days, it is too bright for a dark picture. I would have to cut a flower from the tree, and I did not want to ask permission.

I took a piece of black felt and clamped one end to a tree branch and the other to an extended light stand. I then took a picture using Aperture Priority in order to see what the results were, but also to see what the camera meter was using for exposure.

Here is my first shot:

Bradford Pear first shot
Test shot of bradford pear

You have to agree that it is not all that impressive. I set the aperture at F6.3 and the camera set the shutter speed at 1/80 of a second. Notice that the whites are a bit too bright and the black background actually looks purple.

I changed the mode to Manual. Aperture was still F6.3, but I set the shutter speed at 1/250 sec. In my opinion, the difference was stunning.

Post processing: I used Photoshop to make a few adjustments.

Basically, I added a small amount of vignette and cropped out a small piece of white in one corner. I also desaturated the photo about 25% and added grain at a setting of 33.

That’s it! I only took 8 shots in about 5 minutes and spent about 5 minutes looking and editing on the computer.

How To Do Flower Macro Photography – Tips For Amateur Photographers

Flower Macro Photography Is Fun

Plus, as an added bonus, taking pictures of flowers builds your confidence as a photographer.

flower macro - sunflower in perfect condition

Consider these benefits:

  • No client to deal with, therefore, no negative feedback
  • They don’t blink and ruin a great shot
  • They stay where you put them
  • They won’t miss the appointment

Flowers are your friends!

T

aking these kinds of pictures is not very hard, even if you don’t own the best equipment. The best way to start is by calling up some patience from within. Patience is the key because you probably won’t get your best shot the first time you press the shutter button. In fact, it may take many shots before you get some you are satisfied with.

Here are the key points for flower macro photography:

  1. The lighting is crucial
  2. Image sharpness is also critical
  3. A blurry background can make or mess up your picture
  4. A perfect flower gives you a much better chance of success

Once again, notice that equipment is not mentioned. Because you can modify your equipment so that it works for you in this kind of photography.

magnolia flower macro

OK, let’s dive in and see how these photos are done.

1. Lighting is crucial

Photography is all about light, and flower macros are no different. You want nice soft (as opposed to harsh) lighting. And natural light is the best kind. Some of the best light will be available in front of windows or in shaded areas. As a rookie, you definitely want to avoid dappled light or direct sunlight in the middle of a bright day.

If you are photographing a flower in a pot, this part is easy. Just move the flower. But if you are taking pictures of flowers in natural settings outside, plan your shot for early or late in the day. And if that is not possible, use some kind of light diffuser like an umbrella or even a piece of white cloth like a white shirt stretched across a tennis racket.

2. Sharpness will make or break your photo

Macro photography MUST have sharp focus on the subject. If the pictures ain’t sharp, delete ’em. Seriously. Don’t keep out of focus pictures on your computer. They take up valuable space, and you will never use them.. because they are not sharp.

In order to take great, sharp pictures, get help. Help comes from a tripod or some other way to steady your camera. I personally have used lots of different ways to steady my camera. Rocks, tables, chairs, garbage cans, and camera bags are just a few suggestions.

3. Try for a blurry background.

While a sharp focus is critical, having the background out of focus will add just as much to your flower image. You want your flower to “pop” out and be noticed. If the background distracts, that is not possible.

There are three ways to get a blurry background.

  • The first way is to use a very large aperture. This is possible with one of the better cameras. Set your camera on Aperture mode and select the setting with the smallest number (f 1.8 is a good example).
  • The second way to get a blurry background is to use the Macro setting on your camera. Macro usually is represented by a little tulip icon on the mode dial.
  • The third way is to move the flower farther away from the background. The farther away the background is, the blurrier it will be.

4. Choose a perfect flower.

Maybe this should have been the first item in the list. After all, it is really important that the petals are flawless. Pay attention to this detail. If you are not photographing the entire flower, pick the part of the flower that is perfect. Flaws that are not in the picture don’t matter.

So now, back to the idea of patience. If you are new to flower macro photography, keep at it. Think about what you want to accomplish with your picture and work at it. Adjust the light, or steady your camera, or work on getting the blurry background.

When all three of these come together, you will be more likely to be proud of your picture.

Now it’s your turn. Get your camera and get to work.

There are many more ways to improve your photography. Sign up for my Free resource book: 13 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Photography Without Spending a Dime. Just enter your email address below.

My New Canon EF-S 60mm Macro

I do believe that it’s love at first snap!

This is one of the first shots I took with this new macro lens.
This is one of the first shots I took with this new macro lens.

My Very First EF-S Lens

I have been wanting a Canon ef-s 60mm macro lens for quite some time. I just needed a good excuse to get it, and, of course, I needed the cash. Well, this week the stars were all lined up perfectly, and this afternoon, the lens was delivered before I arrived home.

Made this video about the EF-S 60mm lens with the grandkids.. such fun!

It is actually my very first EF-S lens at any focal length. This kind of lens is only for DSLR cameras that are not full frame. They are referenced as “crop sensor” or APS-C sensor cameras. The reason I have not purchased one before is that I intended to eventually get a full frame camera. However, I am totally satisfied with my Rebels. And I am not going pro anytime soon. EF-S lenses also work on other Canon models, such as 60D, 70D, and 7D, which are really powerful, darn near professional cameras.

When I wrote this post, I had only taken about 15 shots, but every one was totally acceptable with respect to quality and sharpness. It could be photography heaven LOL

Most of the pictures I shot were very close up, but here is one where I stepped back a couple of feet..
tickseed flowers with Canon EF-S 60mm macro lens
Not bad, right?

Value For Bucks

In my humble opinion, this lens is pretty darn good. It costs about $350, which is an excellent price for an honest-to-goodness macro lens.

One of the most important things to check when looking for a lens is what others think about it. In the case of the Canon EF-S 60mm macro, it has a 4.8 star rating. That is an awesome rating.

(If you are interested in purchasing, please use the link to Amazon. Amazon is a trusted online seller, and it will help me to keep doing what I love to do – take more pictures and maintain my website.)

Macro Photography Tips – Using a Canon Rebel

I am big into macro photography. It’s what got me hooked on photography in the first place.

I will never forget the picture. In fact, it’s still on the wall of my office. It’s nothing spectacular to anyone else, but to me, it’s very special. It is the hook that wouldn’t let go. And even though it was taken with a simple little 3-megapixel Olympus point and shoot camera, I felt like a pro when I saw it in print.

First digital photo

This photo is not a true “macro photo,” by definition. However, it is somewhat close up, and I had the camera on the macro setting. What captured my attention was the colors and the texture.

I have now graduated to a more sophisticated camera, a Canon Rebel. In fact I have more than one Rebel (you know this if you have read some of my other posts).

Here is a photo I took early this morning using the photography tip outlined below:

Macro photo using Canon Rebel T3i
Click on the photo to see some awesome detail.

The key to the photography tip I am about to share with you is that it can be done with any Canon Rebel newer than a T2i. That means if you have a T3i, T4i, T5i, T3, or SL1, you can do this. There may be other cameras that have the Live View feature I discuss in this article, but I am not sure which ones do, so I am limited to the Rebel lineup in my recommendations for a camera.

Here is a brief outline of the technique:

  1. Set your camera on a tripod – absolutely necessary for this to work well.
  2. Choose the aperture (Av) setting on the top mode dial.
  3. Use the top dial to choose an aperture – for macro, a higher number like f/9.0 or f/22 is usually the right choice rather than a lower number (in the video, I used f/9.0)
  4. Find the little switch on your lens and move it off AF (auto focus) to Manual focus
  5. Change your Drive Mode to Self-timer, either 2 seconds or 10 seconds.
  6. Activate “Live View”
  7. Use the focus ring on your lens to get the focus as close as possible.
  8. Press the zoom button once or twice to enlarge the Live View preview by 5x or 10x respectively.
  9. Fine tune the focus using the focus ring on your lens while the digital zoom is at 5x or 10x.
  10. Press the shutter button and wait for the timer to record your image.

Please note: the picture will be captured at full size (the way it looks before you press the 5x or 10x zoom button). It will not be the image you see in the zoom window. This has confused some folks who think that “what you see is what you get.” The zoom feature is merely to allow you to fine-tune your focus.

This video explains the whole process..

Sample shots from the Canon Rebel T3i – Macro Photography

Canon Rebel T3i - Macro Photography with Sigma 105mm lens
Sunflower image taken with a Canon Rebel T3i – Macro Photography with Sigma 105mm lens
Canon Rebel T3i - Macro Photography with Kit Lens
Sunflower image taken with a Canon Rebel T3i – Macro Photography with Kit Lens

Notice in the photos above that one of them was taken with a true macro lens and the other was taken with the kit lens. It is obvious that a macro lens is far better than the kit lens, although, I must admit that the newer STM kit lens is much better than the older one.

There is, however, an option for transforming your normal lens, including the kit lens, into a macro-type lens. It involves lens accessories.

  1. First, you can use extension tubes. These come in a variety of packages, but if you get Fotodiox tubes, they are less than $15. The problem is that they do not allow the camera to auto-focus, but since you are following the advice above, you will be using manual focus anyway, so go for it!

canon rebel t3i macro filters
Close-Up Macro Filter Set
for kit lens (58mm)

  1. Second, you can get some very inexpensive lens filters that will transform your normal non-macro lens into a close-up lens. Just make sure you get the right size so that it will screw onto the lens you plan to use. The Rebel T3i Kit lens takes a 58mm filter.

There is still another option. Recently, I posted a “macro photography tips” article about how you can capture macro images without a macro lens; you simply reverse your regular lens. This is the cheapest method for close ups.

Hopefully, these macro photography tips will give you something to think about next time you shoot.

New Garden Photos – Dahlia Flower Photography

I love taking pictures of flowers, especially in my own yard. Flower photography has risen to the top as my favorite thing to photograph. I have been waiting for my first Dahlia to bloom (and I mean EVER – I never knew there was such a flower), and today I received the reward for my patience.

There are actually dahlia clubs and societies. I have several varieties planted around my yard. Our friends who own a nursery in Montana introduced us to these amazing flowers. Maybe I will be joining one of those societies someday. (LOL – I’m not really a “society” kind of guy.)

Pink Dahlia with Canon T3iThe method I used for this shot is not exactly a beginner’s photography technique, but it is not too difficult. I will try to explain the method so you can try it with your camera.

I took this in manual mode so that I could darken the background. I also used a new softbox attachment for my speedlite flash so I could close the aperture (larger number = closed more). When you don’t have enough light to illuminate the entire area, the flash will lighten the flower. I really like the way it turned out.

So, here is the setting info:

  • Canon Rebel T3i
  • Tamron 28-75mm lens for Canon
  • Manual Mode
  • Aperture: f/9.0
  • Shutter Speed: 1/200
  • Focal length: 70mm
  • ISO: 100
  • Canon Speedlite 320 with a Fotodiox 6″ x 8″ softbox
  • Flash at full strength
  • Hand-held

You can do the same thing without the Speedlite. Just set your Rebel on Manual and choose a shutter speed of 1/200. This is the “sync” speed of your Rebel, meaning that when you are using a flash, the shutter speed can’t go any faster than 1/200.

Choose an aperture that is a fairly high number. This will close the aperture and darken the background while the flash lights the subject. If there is a bright sun, this may not work as well, but you can try using something to shade the subject if there is too much light.

Yellow dahlia - flower photography techniques
The next bloom will undoubtedly be yellow.

Flower photography with flash for dark backgroundHere is another example of the same method. (These are not dahlias)

  • Manual Mode
  • Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens @ 28mm
  • F/9.0
  • 1/200 sec
  • ISO 100
  • Canon Speedlite 320ex with Fotodiox 6″ x 8″ softbox
Dahlia with Canon SL1
This is the same flower as shown above, only 2 days later. Glorious!

If you have any questions about the method or explanation, please feel free to leave a comment.

Reverse Lens Macro Photography

Reverse Lens Macro is the really cheap way to get started with actual Macro Photography

This will be quick. You will discover how to take an actual macro shot with your kit lens (or any lens for that matter). It will work with any digital SLR camera, but I will be using a Canon Rebel T3i. Note that with a T3i you can use Live View in your LCD panel.

Make sure you read the whole article or watch the video all the way through to find out how you can greatly improve the quality of your reverse lens shots.T3i - kit lens - macro setting

The picture on the right was taken with my Canon T3i and the Kit Lens. The camera was set on the Macro setting on the mode dial (the setting is the one that looks like a tulip flower). This is not a true macro photo, even though it was taken on the right setting. The Kit Lens just is not capable of taking a true macro.

Macro image with kit lens reversedI disconnected the lens and turned it around, holding it tightly against the lens opening and took this next shot. You can see a major difference in how much of the frame is filled with the flower. Now, this is a macro photograph.

So this can be done with any lens you have in your camera bag. The most common lens for reverse macro photography is the 50mm f1.8, but the kit lens works almost as well.

The down side is that you can’t adjust the aperture, which means there is very little depth of field (the picture will have an area in focus, but just a few millimeters in front or behind that focus area is blurry.

But, Fear not! Just watch the video and pay attention to the second half to find out how you can increase the depth of field.

I also recommend that you get a Reversal Ring for you camera. They are very cheap and they will allow you much more control and accuracy, since you don’t have to hold the lens and camera together and keep them steady at the same time.

Watch the video. As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

FYI, I learned this from Ben Long at Lynda.com. In fact, I have learned so much over the years, that I highly recommend Lynda. I recommend Lynda to YOU. Try it at no cost – Get 7 days of free unlimited access to lynda.com.

Of course, I would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below, and let me know if there is anything you would like me to talk about on the blog.

Cheers!

Take Better Pictures Of Flowers – 7 Useful Hints For Better Flower Photos

You Can Learn How To Take Better Pictures Of Flowers

Take Better Pictures of FlowersIf you are anything at all like me, you love to take pictures of nature. It is the handiwork of our Creator. The beauty and variety are amazing.

Each flower is an individual and unique picture. But getting good, sharp pictures does take some knowledge and skill. In fact, if you have the knowledge, the skill kind of falls into place.

So here are a few helpful hints for getting better pictures of flowers. Continue reading Take Better Pictures Of Flowers – 7 Useful Hints For Better Flower Photos

Two Ways To Take Total Control Of Your Macro Photos Using A Canon Rebel

Macro photos are something I am passionate about. Macro is one of my favorite photography applications.

Canon Rebel T3i
Canon Rebel T3i (or T4i) with Live View is excellent for Macro Photos

It is one of those things where, since I do it all the time, I tend to forget that not everyone does. So I leave out some of the elementary (to me) details.

Well, not too long ago, I wrote an article about how to use my Canon Rebel T3i to take macro photos. The article is on another web site: http://canonrebelt3i600d.com/canon-rebel-t3i-macro-photography/

Continue reading Two Ways To Take Total Control Of Your Macro Photos Using A Canon Rebel

Macro Photography – Butterflies and Flowers

Macro is my favorite shooting style. My T3i and T4i make great macro images (sometimes photoshop comes into the equation, too), and I look like a nature photographer.

It’s all about appearances, right?

So here is a butterfly that showed up today. I have been waiting for these guys.. seems like they are late, but I finally got one on my butterfly bush this morning.

Swallowtail butterfly macro - shot with Rebel T3i
Swallowtail Butterfly (click on the photo to see a larger version)

Pretty sweet, huh? You can see why I like doing this kind of photography.

Close by, there was some phlox with awesome light, so I snapped that as well.

Phlox macro with Canon Rebel T3i
Purple phlox – Canon T3i and Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens (click on the image for a larger version)

Now, you may be asking why I did not use the new Canon Rebel T4i to shoot these photos, right?

Answer: I was outside working in the yard when the swallowtail showed up.. I was sweaty and dirty, and my T4i was upstairs, but my T3i was in the basement. So I grabbed the closest one. Image quality is the same with both in bright light. No problem.

Cheers!