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Canon Rebel T3i Digital SLR Camera ~ Macro Photography

Updated on August 23, 2017

You Can Make Better Use Of Your Digital SLR Camera - Get Off "Auto Mode"

Are you ready to try macro photography?

I know it's scary, but you have to move your Mode Dial off Auto.

If you are a "normal" Canon Rebel photographer, you have taken about 100% of your pictures on Auto. If that is the case, you need to step out of your comfort zone and MOVE THAT DIAL. Don't think about it, just do it now. You can thank me later (he, he, he).

Many photographers (yours truly included) find themselves drawn into macro photography, and it may even have happened totally by chance.

But once you discover the surprising details of nature revealed by your digital SLR, you, too, may be hooked.

Update: Everything in this article will work with the newer Canon Rebel T4i , T5i, or a Rebel SL1, as well as the T3i.

Some cameras are better suited for taking those close-up shots than others, and the Canon EOS Rebel T3i is one of those that is tailor-made for the job of macro photography.

To be sure, macro is not just shooting bugs and flowers, although nature is a great place to go for some surprising results. The results will be surprising simply because you don't normally examine the intricacies of a flower stamen or the detail of a zipper with a magnifying glass very often. So when you get up close and personal with those things, you see detail that usually goes unnoticed.

If you are new to macro photography, and also the owner of a Canon Rebel T3i, T4i, or the newest T5i and SL1 (you can't do this with a Canon Rebel T3 or even the 60D), this article is for you.

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Canon Rebel T3i Macro Shot
Canon Rebel T3i Macro Shot

The Set-up For Macro Shots With A Rebel T3i

What you will need:

  1. A Canon Rebel T3i (totally essential for THIS method)
  2. Tripod (not absolutely essential, but highly recommended)
  3. Macro Lens (again, not an essential, but once you get started with macro photography, this will be at the top of your "want" list)

Ravelli Tripod

Ravelli APGL5 Professional 65" Ball Head Camera Video Photo Tripod with Quick Release Plate and Carry Bag
Ravelli APGL5 Professional 65" Ball Head Camera Video Photo Tripod with Quick Release Plate and Carry Bag

A good tripod does not have to cost a ton of money. This one will serve you well!

 


So, the only thing that is required is the Canon Rebel T3i. That makes it pretty simple.

You can use a stable object in place of the tripod, such as a box or even the ground, and you could possibly brace your camera against a tree. It's just easier to position a tripod.

The macro lens is also not the most important piece of equipment in this method either. If you don't own one and can't afford a good one, you can get a really inexpensive set of Fotodiox Macro Extension Tubes that will transform any lens into a macro lens (see below for a link on Amazon for these extension tubes).

Taking The Shot

Canon Rebel T3i Live View
Canon Rebel T3i Live View
Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens for Canon SLR Camera
Sigma 105mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro Lens for Canon SLR Camera

Nearly all of my macro shots are taken with this lens. I have never had buyer's remorse over this excellent quality Canon lens.

 

The photo above shows the camera LCD in Live View. The arrow is pointing to the button that will enable Live View when you are ready to compose the shot.

Getting the shot is fairly simple. It will work much better if you can secure the camera on a tripod or some other stable surface.

*** The key to getting the very best focus is to set your lens on Manual Focus. ***

Set the camera in position and use the lens focus ring to get the best focus you can. Then use the digital zoom button (see photo on the right) to zoom in by 5x and fine-tune the focus. If necessary, you can even go another step to zoom in to 10x.

IMPORTANT - The photo that you take will not be what you see in the 5x or 10x window. It will be the photo in the "unzoomed" window. The digital zoom is there simply to get the focus spot-on.

You can see this process in action in the video below.

Canon Rebel T3i Macro Photography Technique

A picture is worth a thousand words. The video shows exactly how to take some great macro images with your Canon Rebel T3i.

Take Your Close-ups Even Closer - Use Regular Lenses with "Adjustments"

This macro was taken without a macro lens. In fact, it was taken with a normal Canon 85mm f/1.8 portrait lens.

The key is extension tubes. These are small "spacers" that push your lens farther away from the camera sensor so that the lens can focus at a closer distance than normal. Under normal circumstances, I could not get any closer than about 2 feet with this lens, but with extension tubes, I was about 8 inches from the little critter, allowing it to fill the picture frame.

I use Kenko extension tubes, which let the camera still auto focus. However, to be honest, when shooting macro, I rarely leave the lens on auto focus. I find that, using Live View and the zoom feature as described in the video above, I get much sharper and more consistent images.

Here are the particulars for this shot:

  • Canon T3i
  • Live View
  • Canon 85mm f/1.8 lens
  • Aperture: f/11
  • Shutter Speed: 1/15 second
  • ISO: 200
  • Tripod
  • Kenko 12mm and 20mm extension tubes

Next day - morning wetness helped me to get this picture (looking at the underside of the caterpillar).

What about YOU?

Do you own (and use) a macro lens?

Learn How To Use Your Canon Rebel T3i In 7 Days or Less - Work through an online course in less than 7 days and you pay nothing.

Have you heard of Lynda.com?

Lynda.com is an online subscription training site that has just about anything you want to learn, including the Canon Rebel T3i.

Right now, you can sign up for a 7 day trial at no cost to you. It would be easy to work through the Canon T3i training title in 7 days, which means... **Free**

If you continue your subscription, you pay just $25 a month (there are a couple of other options, in particular, a yearly subscription).

For your $25, you get unlimited access to all the training videos in the Lynda.com library. (As of this writing, there are 1,374 training courses.)

Get 7 days of free unlimited access to lynda.com.

I signed up for Lynda.com on a month-to-month basis about 5 years ago for the sole purpose of learning Flash.

My plan was to learn some basic Flash and end my subscription. That was 5 years ago, and I am still a subscriber.

I have found that my $25 a month is one of the best investments I have made.. ever!

You are probably a faster learner than I am, and you won't need 5 years of training LOL.

Technology changes every day, and Lynda.com is always up to date with the latest and best instruction.

Do yourself a favor and sign up for 7 days of free unlimited access to lynda.com.

(If you click on the Lynda.com link above and end up subscribing after the 7 day trial, I will get some money.)

Macro Photography Cheats

Great shots WITHOUT a Macro Lens

There are a couple of ways to get around buying an expensive macro lens. But don't just get a cheap macro lens. That will not satisfy your craving for excellent images. Definitely wait until you can afford a good quality lens.

The best method to get those great macro shots without a dedicated macro lens is to purchase some very inexpensive extension tubes (see photo and links below). Extension Tubes for Canon Rebels let you move your camera closer to the subject than is normally possible. There are a few manufacturers that produce these tubes that are technologically advanced enough to allow the camera to auto-focus. But, remember, with the method described in this article, you will be using manual focus. So you can save a bundle by getting extension tubes made by Fotodiox... less than $15. (Just in case you didn't pick up on it in the previous sentence, Fotodiox tubes do NOT allow the camera lens to auto-focus.)

One other really cheap way to convert your non-macro lens into a close-up shooter is with filters that attach to the front of the lens. If you decide to try close up filters, make sure you get the right size for the lens you will be shooting with, because each lens has its own thread size. For instance, the kit lens uses a 58mm filter.

Bugs As Models

Wasp Macro
Wasp Macro

Some of the more fun subjects for close-up photography are insects. Each tiny creature has its own amazing details, and you rarely notice until you have time to examine it on your computer screen. Many folks are too scared of getting stung to get close enough for a "bug portrait." But if you do have the opportunity, grab it!

Wasps are so interesting that they have been used as models for aliens and cartoons.

Just... bee careful ... some of them can give you quite a jolt if annoyed.

Cheats For Your Canon Rebel T3i

Fotodiox Canon EOS Macro Extension Tube Set for Extreme Close-Ups
Fotodiox Canon EOS Macro Extension Tube Set for Extreme Close-Ups

These extension tubes work well, except you will lose the Auto Focus feature. Everything has to be focused manually, which is fine with the method showed in this article.

 
Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set for the Canon EOS AF Mount.
Kenko DG Auto Extension Tube Set for the Canon EOS AF Mount.

Kenko is a lot more money, but the up side is that the Auto Focus of your lens works with these extension tubes.

 

Purple Phlox With "Dew Drops"

These phlox blossoms are only about one inch across. Through the magic of macro photography, they look quite large and beautiful.

One trick used by many flower photographers is to use a mister to spray droplets of water so the flowers look like they are covered with dew drops. In this case, it really is dew, but if there is none, you can easily create your own ;-)

Orange Poppy Macro - Another Early Morning Shot

Poppy with dew drops
Poppy with dew drops

This is one of my all time favorites. Orange poppy with a purple dianthus background.

I used the method described in the video with the macro lens set at a very narrow f/22 aperture. I was trying to get some recognition of the dianthus. Being so close to the poppy, the background is still quite blurry. Using a macro lens has this very distinct advantage - awesome blurry backgrounds.

More Canon Rebel T3i Photography Tips

Join us to Learn about Canon T3i photography. The Rebel community is growing with enthusiastic new photographers getting on board every day.

Never has there been a better time to be a digital photographer than now.

There is also a web site dedicated to making photography easier for beginners at WayneRasku.com. (Don't forget to download your "Photography Tips" e-book. It costs nothing.)

Mushrooms Offer Photo Ops, Too

Mushrooms - up close and personal
Mushrooms - up close and personal

There are many kinds of fungi around us, even in cities. You just have to take the time to find them. This batch of mushrooms was found at the base of a tree in the backyard.

Pay attention, because they could be here today and gone tomorrow.

More backyard mushrooms.

Alternatives To Normal Macro Photography

Not every shot has to be of bugs or flowers. Look for "normal" stuff that you wouldn't normally look at with a magnifying glass.

Macro Photography Without The Macro Lens - Using the reverse lens macro photography technique

I had heard a lot about this technique, so I decided to investigate. If I did not own a true macro lens, I would definitely be doing this. I wrote a blog post about it at waynerasku.com/reverse-lens-macro-photography with more of an explanation about how it is done.

Reverse Lens Adapter Ring - The same ring used in the video.

Fotodiox Macro Reverse Ring Camera Mount Adapter for Canon EOS Camera with 58mm Filter Thread Lens
Fotodiox Macro Reverse Ring Camera Mount Adapter for Canon EOS Camera with 58mm Filter Thread Lens

This is the right reverse ring for a Canon Kit Lens and a Canon 50mm lens.

 

Great Macro Flower Photography Tips

Greg has some very helpful tips in this video as you think about macro photography with flowers. Of course, he uses a Nikon instead of a Rebel, but the concepts are the same for either camera.

Here is a brief description of what he recommends:

  • Timing - choose a good time of day for your flower shots - not every hour has the same light
  • Timing - catch the flowers at their peak - no sad (past their prime) flowers
  • Lens selection - use a macro lens - get 'em used if necessary
  • Choose the right aperture - do you want blurry background, but also don't go so far that the flower is not in focus
  • Angle - change your position to get the most interesting shot, bring a blanket or piece of plastic
  • Set your shot type - A-1 servo so that the camera will stay in focus
  • Know the rules of composition

Watch the video for more detail.

Close-up Shots With A Canon Rebel T3i - A Few Of My Favorite Macro Shots Using This Technique

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Linton Rose with morning dewSwiss Army Knife - about 3" longPurple floxIce crystals on rose leafInside a Linton RoseWooden toy truckCuff links - product shot
Linton Rose with morning dew
Linton Rose with morning dew
Swiss Army Knife - about 3" long
Swiss Army Knife - about 3" long
Purple flox
Purple flox
Ice crystals on rose leaf
Ice crystals on rose leaf
Inside a Linton Rose
Inside a Linton Rose
Wooden toy truck
Wooden toy truck
Cuff links - product shot
Cuff links - product shot

Would Love To Hear What You Think...

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    • Wayne Rasku profile image
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      Wayne Rasku 3 years ago

      @visit2goa: @visit2goa, reflex refers to the mirror inside a dslr camera. The image you are looking at through the viewfinder is reflected to both the image sensor and the viewfinder by this mirror. Sounds simple, but it is pretty amazing technology. Thanks for the question.

    • profile image

      visit2goa 3 years ago

      what does Reflex means in DSLR's

    • GetPhotographic profile image

      GetPhotographic 3 years ago

      I haven't taken macro for ages but looking at these I'm re-hooked! And as for getting off Auto, couldn't agree with you more. I'll be sure to check out your other stuff.

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 4 years ago

      @mastemga: Thank you!

    • mastemga profile image

      mastemga 4 years ago

      Awesome macro shots!

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 4 years ago

      @PhotographyMyst: Thank you photographymysteries. Glad you enjoyed.

    • PhotographyMyst profile image

      PhotographyMyst 4 years ago

      Great lens. Really enjoyed the information you have shared. great tip about macro photography, I am off to try it. Enjoyed your video's.

    • mariacarbonara profile image

      mariacarbonara 4 years ago

      Love the look of macro photos. Great lens

    • Rankography profile image

      Rankography 4 years ago

      Great lens, lots of helpful tips for amateur photographers. Thanks and Blessings.

    • profile image

      Steve999 4 years ago

      REally enjoyed your lens and the info on macro photography. Peple often underestimate the power of their cameras and the effects they can create

    • profile image

      purelightphoto 4 years ago

      Great looking Lens! Cool tips this is helpful for photography addicts like me, Thanks!

    • profile image

      hmommers 4 years ago

      Great pictures!

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 4 years ago

      slingerkb, just do it!

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 4 years ago

      @anonymous: HaHa SummerBreeze, my intent was not to create stress in your photographic life, but I must admit, there have been some hefty improvements in the Canon Rebel lineup since the XTi. Thanks for your comment.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Im trying very, very hard to stay satisfied with my Rebel XTi. You are making that a lot more difficult, with this information! Love the lens, anyway. :)

    • Fox Music profile image

      Fox Music 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this lens "Learn To Use A Canon Rebel T3i For Macro Photography"

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Hobbiest, thank you for your comment. It sounds like you are going to have a good week coming up. You will LOVE your new T3i!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Love your very helpful video! I'm buying a Canon T3i next week and I have a macro lens in my wishlist to buy later. I appreciate your ability to make a brief but very informative video. You would be a great teacher!

    • mel-kav profile image

      mel-kav 5 years ago

      Great lens and photos!

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @CarlittoDunaway: If you are asking whether you can take macro shots with a 400D, the answer is YES. However, the method I described in this article uses the digital zoom feature on the newest Canon Rebel T3i.. this is the first Rebel to have the digital zoom feature when shooting while you are using Live View (the Rebel 400D does not have Live View either).

    • profile image

      CarlittoDunaway 5 years ago

      I am wondering if older camera can be used as well. I have European model of EOS 400D I am learning to use.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for the great information.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Ok, busted, I always use the auto setting lol

      Great info, love your pictures, and leaving a wee bit of Squidoo Angel dust

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      Ha! I love your first line: "I know it's scary, but you have to move your Mode Dial off Auto."...I don't have a camera this nice, but my little digital has NEVER been changed from Auto Mode! :) Very nice lens...gorgeous pictures!

    • profile image

      KarenCookieJar 5 years ago

      I love macro photography, I need to pick up a better macro lens.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 5 years ago from Arkansas USA

      Gorgeous illustrations and instructions!

    • julescorriere profile image

      Jules Corriere 5 years ago from Jonesborough TN

      Very useful lens for people wanting to leasrn macrophotography. Great example photos. Blessed.

    • Riosamba Gallery profile image

      Riosamba Gallery 5 years ago

      I love macro photography, I have digital Canon and the analog, My analog macro is getting a little rusty too much use I suppose. Yes, I still sometime take macro with film. Enjoy reading your lens.

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @BLemley: Thanks BLemley! Yes, that wooden truck was a fun shot. I bought it at Hobby Lobby just to take a picture :-)

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @flicker lm: Thank you Flicker. Coming from someone who is also a Lover of Nature Photography, I really appreciate your comment.

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Extension tubes are a good way to make any lens a macro lens. And they are much cheaper than a new lens, especially if you plan to use manual focus.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I get pretty good shots with my 70 - 200mm and want a Macro lens and have been considers extenders so thanks for the info

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I get pretty good shots with my 70 - 200mm and want a Macro lens and have been considers extenders so thanks for the info

    • flicker lm profile image

      flicker lm 5 years ago

      Love your photos, especially "Linton Rose with morning dew." Very nice!

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Lovely macro shots! Love the wooden truck ~ it looks full size! That's cool! B : )

    • BLemley profile image

      Beverly Lemley 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Lovely macro shots! Love the wooden truck ~ it looks full size! That's cool! B : )

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @ItayaLightbourne: Thank you ItayasDesigns. Whenever I write an article like this I appreciate the photography even more.

    • ItayaLightbourne profile image

      Itaya Lightbourne 5 years ago from Topeka, KS

      Wonderful info and very lovely photos. I love macro photography!

    • Wayne Rasku profile image
      Author

      Wayne Rasku 5 years ago

      @Einar A: Thanks so much Einar_G. The thing about macro that I love is that when you take those kind of pictures (Ice crystals for instance), you see the amazing detail only AFTER you take the photo and put it on your computer. So many OMG moments.

    • Einar A profile image

      Einar A 5 years ago

      Interesting information. I love you work, especially the photo of the ice crystals on the leaves!