Canon Rebel T3i Digital SLR Camera ~ Macro Photography
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.
The Set-up For Macro Shots With A Rebel T3i
What you will need:
- A Canon Rebel T3i (totally essential for THIS method)
- Tripod (not absolutely essential, but highly recommended)
- Macro Lens (again, not an essential, but once you get started with macro photography, this will be at the top of your "want" list)
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
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
- 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?
Yes, close-up shots are amazing!
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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
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
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 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
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
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.
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.