How to macro photography with Canon 550D – how to settings tutorial.
This is a how to instructions guide for taking macro photography and extreme close-ups with Canon 550D. Hence the title, how to macro photography with Canon 550D. 😉
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”
– Marcel Proust
This article will cover:
What is macro photography?
What equipment do I need to do macro photography
What settings do I use for macro photography?
Which Macro Lens should I buy for my Canon camera?
How to do macro photography with Canon 550D. 😀
Macro photography allows us to see the world from a different perspective. Extreme close-up photos can be mesmerizing, and will add a different dimension to your photography toolbox – which consequently means that your reputation as a photographer will improve drastically. If you would like to learn more, please read on – it is very easy to do once you know how to, and very impressive to your followers. – Nicole Lisa Photography
What is macro photography?
Macro photography is the terminology used by photographers for taking “Close-up” or “magnified” photos of any chosen object or animal. The photographs producing are extremely detailed, showing detail beyond that which is visible to the naked human eye.
However, macrophotography is slightly more technical than simply taking close up photos, and if the term “macro” is to be applied to the image being taken, one has to achieve a magnification level greater than 1:1. In other words, the image being captured on film, or on the imaging sensor of your DSLR camera), must be larger than that of what is being photographed. This does not apply to an image which has simply been made larger in post processing, and we shall therefore explain what kind of equipment you will need in order to understand how to take macro photography with Canon 550D.
“All I can do is be me, whoever that is.”
What equipment do I need to do macrophotography?
The question should really be, “what equipment do I need to take professional looking macro photos?”
1. DSLR CAMERA
The fact that you are reading up on this, shows that you have an interest in photography. Obviously the best camera you could have, is a DSLR, which these days are not too expensive. Seeing that you’ve found this article ‘How to do macro photography with Canon 550D’, implies that you already have a Canon 550D (or want one). Anywho, this is a perfect camera to start with – your way to learn how to do macro photography with Canon 550D.
“You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.“
– Mark Twain
2. MACRO LENS
The second most important piece of equipment is a Macro Lens. This is a specifically designed lens for this type of photography, and it will not fail you. You could try to make a cheaper version, buy a cheaper lens or even use a magnifying lens, all of which will impart a degree of the magnification possible – but also create a degree of blur. The optically superb macro lens can be found in the link provided, and will last you a lifetime.
– Read more: CANON EF 100MM
Hands down, the best macro lens for Canon DSLR cameras. The sole favorite amongst Amazon customers, currently having collected an impressive 5/5 star rating with 273 customer reviews. Canon’s first mid-telephoto macro “L” series lens to include Canon’s sophisticated Image Stabilization. Invest in this and you’ll take your photography to another level. Here are a couple of photo examples, shot using this macro lens:
Notice the fascinating details seen due to the amazing capabilities of the macro lens. This is not something you would see with cheaper alternatives.
Highest rated customer review on Amazon: (The abbreviation IS refers to image stabilization):
“I love Canon. Although there were times when I shot with Nikons (D700, D300) and were pretty impressed with the result, I always came back to Canon.
This is the first is macro lens for Canon and they got it right. I have used the 60mm, 100mm, & 180mm macro before and by far this is the best!
Now, if you already own a 100mm macro you should try it before upgrading because the IQ of the lens are identical. I usually use this lens for portraits (yes, I know the 85mm & 135mm is a better portrait lens.) of my daughter and the IS is awesome. Hand holding 1/40 I can still get a sharp picture.
The thing that I really hated about the non-IS 100mm macro was the distribution of weight – it was the most awkward thing to shoot with. This lens feels lighter because of the even distribution of weight and size (gradual taper) and it includes a deep hood.
I know $1K is a hefty sum of cash, but considering what you get and how long it can last you – I don’t know why you would settle for the non-IS.”
– Peter J. C.
Here’s another photo example, this time capturing an astonishing close-up photo of a spider with unique resolution:
– Feeling inspired? CLICK HERE to learn more about the Canon 100mm macro lens – or the other available lenses.
The third most important piece of equipment is a tripod. This is obviously dependent on what you intend to photograph. However, since you’re into macro photography, it is very likely you would want to take shots of flowers, spiders, water formations, snow crystals and/or a range of insects or objects. Depending on the object, and how likely it is to run away if you get too close, a tripod can provide the stability, and close proximity needed to capture that unique shot of a rare insect or object.
First there is the the professional tripod. In this case a Ravelli 70″ Tripod with Adjustable Pistol Grip Head and Heavy Duty Carry Bag.
– Read more: Ravelli 70″ Tripod
Already have a tripod you say? Well, I bet you don’t have a Gorillapod – this tripod can be attached to all sorts of things where traditional tripods couldn’t. Check it out, it is pretty cool.. is it essential in how to do macro photography with Canon 550D? Perhaps not, but it may give you an unique angle and provide you with a breath-taking photo.
– Read more: Gorillapod – Flexible tripod
– GOOD TIP: Slow camera? Improve speed and function by getting a faster memory card – read about the SanDisk Extreme 64 GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1 Flash Memory Card 45MB/s. One of the fastest cards on the market these days.
4. REMOTE CONTROL SHUTTER TIMER
This is the piece of equipment that allows you to shoot time lapses, long exposure photos with more than 30 seconds shutter time and also traffic trails, star lapse ++ but it is also very handy for macro photography. Why? Because it allows you to stand at a safe distance, for example when setting up your camera next to a bee hive or other creative arenas, which in turn allows you to trigger the photos with the remote or just set it to timer shooting photos every 30 seconds or so. This way you can also create a bit of a fusion between two photo techniques; “macro photography time lapse”. Wonderful stuff! Why not combine it with the use of a slider? (which gives that cool gliding effect).
We generally recommend wireless timers (to those cameras compatible). Yes, they are a bit more pricey, but the investment is well worth it. This is a great option for this model.
Compatible with Canon EOS 60D, 1000D / Rebel XS, 700D / Rebel T5i, 650D / Rebel T4i, 600D / Rebel T3i, 550D / Rebel T2i, 500D /Rebel T1i, 450D / Rebel XSi Series
– If you have any questions regarding anything or specifically about this product, you can ask them in our FORUM or directly on the product description site.
So, to summarize a remote control timer will allow more distance between you and your desired subject. Whether it is wireless or or cord. The one described permits you to stand even further away from your camera, ensuring that the subject is in focus before taking the photo, and could enable you to take more unique and interesting macro images than your competitors – plus you avoid unecessary movement which is crucial to long exposure photography. The timer has many other functions in additon to the ones mentioned. A crucial ingredient in ‘how to do macro photography with Canon 550D’.
To recap, you will need:
– Macro Lens
– Tripod (optional)
– Remote controlled automatic shutter (optional)
– Slider (optional)
“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
How to do macro photography with Canon 550D – What settings to use?
Once you are all set up with your equipment, the obvious question comes into effect; “what settings do I use…?!”
This is dependent on where you are, and what time of day it is – as the amount of light available will play a vital role.
Depth of field is very important, the main reason being that when you are so close up to an object, you need to make sure that a suitable large area of the subject is in focus. You wont be too impressed when you finally get to see your images on the big screen, and find out that the antler is the only thing you managed to get in focus of your rare fire ant.
On the other hand you can of course adjust the settings to artistically pick out areas of interest that you want to focus on, but understanding the settings you need is the first will help shape your abilities as a photographer.
The depth of field is dependent upon the aperture (F-stop), which is explained in more detail below.
The aperture (f-stop)
The aperture, or f-stop (same as focal ratio, f-number and relative aperture) controls how wide the lens is during a shot. A wide aperture (low f-number) means that your lens is open quite wide, allowing a lot of light in during the shot. A high f-number means that your lens is not open as wide, therefore limiting the amount of light in any given shot.
In macro photography – is is best to shoot with a narrow aperture, and therefore high f-number/f-stop – as more of the image will be in focus. An example of what is being described here can be seen in the photo below.
As you can see, an f-stop of f/1.4 is larger than that of f/2.0, and much larger than that of f/8.0.
Back to the depth of field
If you want all the areas of the subject in focus, a large F-number (for example f/32), will help you achieve this. More of both the background and foreground objects/details will be in focus.
A smaller f-number (and therefore larger aperture) such as f/1.2 will isolate more of the foreground from details in the picture that lay more in the background, meaning the foreground will appear sharp and the background will appear blurry.
An example of this can be seen in the picture below. The picture on the left has a large depth of Field (meaning both the foreground and background elements are in focus), and therefore has a high f-stop and a narrow aperture.
Explanation: The picture on the right has a low depth of field, therefore a wide aperture, and low f-stop. The focus is therefore on the leaves, but as you can see the background is not in focus. This can be a cool effect if you utilize it correctly.
Should I use manual focus or automatic focus?
Focussing sharply on a subject in macro photography is perhaps the hardest element to perfect in macrophotography. The lens depicted earlier is a good way of avoiding this obstacle though, but in general it is best to use manual focus, after you have already focussed on the subject using auto-focus. A combination of the two.
You can do this by focusing automatically on the subject first, and once you are sure it is in focus, switch to manual focus. Simples, right?
This will ensure that when you are ready to take the picture, and press the shutter button, the lens won’t try to automatically re-focus, thereby causing you to have to set up your shot again.
Which size macro lens should I buy?
The most popular choice of macro lenses is around 100mm, like the Canon EF 100mm macro lens.
There are so many macro lenses out there, that it can be hard to decide which to buy. You may have seen the different types, with differing focal lengths; 50mm, 60mm, 100mm and 105mm. But what does the focal length mean for camera performance?
The lower the focal length of the lens, the closer you will need to be to the subject, and it will be therefore harder to take good macro photos of injects, or objects that move. This is an extremely important consideration to take into account.
For example, using 60mm macro lens, will mean you really need to be physically close, even directly next to the object. It is likely you will also cast shadows over the subject, and light is an important factor.
Using a 100mm lens will give you that extra length. You can stand nearly 1 meter away from the object, and still get extremely good macro photos, without casting shadows and without potentially scaring your subject away. With the 60mm lens, you have to stand at least 15cm, and as explained, this can be problematic.
Article: How to do macro photography with Canon 550D.
“Where beams of imagination play,
The memory’s soft figures melt away.“
– Alexander Pope
Photo credits: Virendra, Scorpio, E. L. and Wikimedia Commons.