$20 gadget EVERY photographer needs: Extension Tubes for Macro Photography

published on July 19, 2020

If I could have only one photography gadget in my bag it would be the humble extension to the extension tube is this completely empty tube that connects between your camera and lens and you can see it's got no optics whatsoever it's not a teleconverter all it does is move

Your lens a little bit further away from your camera sensor allowing you to focus closer but giving up focus on faraway subjects so I have some flowers here and let's say we want to take the closest possible picture of these flowers before

We even get the extension tubes involved I'll give you my favorite trick which is to put your lens or camera into manual focus mode then adjust the focus to its closest possible focusing point now that you've got it focused as closely as

Possible just look through the viewfinder and get closer and closer until you see the subject come into focus then you can snap your picture now depending on your lens you might be able to focus closer by zooming to a

Different range some lenses focus the closest at the widest angle lens some focus closest in the middle somewhere and some focus closest at the long end zoomed in to 240 millimeters on this lens let me see how close I can get now

Okay I have to keep backing up to get it in focus there we go at 240 millimeters I had to move further away from the subject but the subject is bigger in the frame that's what we call the magnification magnification is a

Technical term referring to the size of the subject relative to how big it appears on your camera sensor when the light hits it it's basically if it's bigger in your viewfinder you have higher magnification that's fine but I

Can probably get a little bit closer before I do I'm gonna show you this cool trick with flowers in particular where if you just spray a little mist on them they look so much prettier so I had this big misting bottle but any bottle any

Mister would work so let's put on an extension to when you buy a set of extension tubes you will usually get a set of two or three extension tubes in different sizes this set comes with a 13 millimeter and a 16 millimeter so I'll

Always start with the smallest possible extension to first take off your lens this exposes your sensor now put the extension tube on it and then attach the lens to the extension tube when you buy an extension

To be sure to get an autofocus version of it even though we're in manual focus mode now that's probably where you should be the autofocus will allow you to adjust the aperture on the lens which is going to be really really important

You do not need to buy a name-brand extension tube kit just get the cheapest possible auto focus extension to kit I I've owned like a dozen kids over the years and the cheap ones always work just as good as the expensive ones so

They started like 15 bucks and go up to like 40 bucks for the cheaper ones so with that extension tube on there I'm going to zoom back to 24 millimeters because I probably don't need to zoom in any further but let's see how close we

Can get now okay that's really really close that is really cool here's the interesting thing about an extension tube and zoom lenses with 13 millimeters of extension here when I'm at 24 millimeters that's an extreme

Amount of extension because it's relative to the focal length of the lens so 13 millimeters is more than half of the 24 millimeters that I'm at which means it's going to produce an amazing dramatic effect if I'm at 240

Millimeters you'll see that the effect isn't nearly as much you extension tubes let you get closer they're super easy to use why don't you become on your camera all the time they

Basically make your camera nearsighted in the same way that nearsighted people have an astigmatism that lets them see things up close but not far away that's what happens to your camera so with that 13 millimeter extension on

And at 24 millimeters if I look out in the distance and try to focus on things far away even focusing the lens to infinity I cannot even focus four or five feet away that can be really frustrating if

You're an event photographer and you're constantly switching between different subjects extension tubes aren't going to work for you that might be the time when you need to switch to a dedicated macro lens macro lenses are specially designed

To allow focusing on up-close subjects while also focusing on faraway subjects don't go by a macro lens most people don't need one at all the extension tube is just fine and unless you're shooting up close and

Then far away all the time an extension tube is exactly what you need let's see what happens when you put on too much extension I will stack both the 13 and the 16 millimeter extension tubes which is something you can do if you want to

Focus even closer than a single extension tube will allow you to do so those two on let me try to focus up close you can see I'm actually running up against the flower and I'm still unable to focus on it with this much

Extension on the lens is technically focusing inside of itself and in fact when I look through it I can see all sorts of little particles and stuff just a little dust that's actually on the lens so that's what happens if you put

On too much extension with a zoom lens an easy way to quickly correct for this is just to zoom out again this reduces the effectiveness of the extension extension tubes are super simple use the smallest extension tube you can to get

To the magnification that you want and then take it off before you need to focus on something far away macro photography however is actually pretty hard to do because one of the factors of depth of field is magnification the

Closer you get to a subject the shower and shallower your depth of field is until the only thing in focus is a tiny tiny sliver the way to address this is by using a higher f-stop number for that reason I always

Have my camera in aperture priority when I'm doing macro photography and I'll often be at a very high f-stop number like f-16 or f-22 let me show you what the depth of field actually looks like this is at f/4 5

This is that f-22 you can throw shots at f45 f-16 and f-22 you can see that the shots at the higher f-stop numbers show a lot more the water droplets and focus and thus they look much better but using a high f-stop

Number introduces a couple of other problems the biggest is that the camera reverted to using a very high ISO ISO 12800 and that made the pictures look much noisier for macro photography you almost always want as much light as

Possible so you know turn on the lights in your house go into the full Sun those are easy things to do you might also add some light this is just an under counter light like it's a battery-powered one and I just happen to have a nearby so

Let me turn this on so I'm just gonna hand hold this over it and you can see how much of a difference that makes it f25 adding the extra light did two things it allowed the camera to use a lower ISO reducing the amount of noise

It also allowed the camera to use a faster shutter speed of course I could switch to manual mode and kind of decide exactly how I want that trade-off to be but I left my camera in automatic mode just for convenience sake but especially

With macro photography more light is more better now it's not just people trying to photograph flowers who want extension tubes through a wedding photographer you are going to get a ring shot at some point and you'll need to

Get as close as possible wedding photographers should all have extension tubes portrait photographers maybe you want to do a close-up of an eye you need an extension tube but even wildlife photographers if you get really good at

Wildlife photography you'll begin to get closer and closer to your subjects and I frequently use sometimes twenty five millimeters of extension on my 500 and 600 millimeter wildlife lenses to allow me to get really close to small birds

And produce higher magnification and higher quality images so go pick one up now they're super cheap and they're a lot of fun and I promise you will use them for years if you want to learn everything about macro photography check

Out my book stunning digital photography which is a full book with a proper curriculum which is a far more efficient way to learn than just meandering between different YouTube videos and you get access to a face

Book Group where you can get support from other readers you have tons of practices that you can use to prepare yourself for when the ultimate moment happens and you need to quickly get a shot without fumbling around and you get

More than 20 hours of video so it's not just reading but reading accompanied with video which is a very effective way to learn check it out at Northrop photo and if you have any follow-up questions or follow-up tips about macro

Photography or extension tubes write a comment down below thanks

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