Portrait and macro photography help

edited August 2014 Posted in » Canon Lens Talk
Hi guys. I've had my T2i for quite some time and I happily went along with the kit lens. Lately I've been trying to get good portrait and macro photography to capture detail perfectly. I've also experimented with my 50mm lens, but I'm still not getting the quality and sharpness I need.

Some background info: I'm a makeup artist and I need to capture high quality images of detail in eye work and face makeup. I'll try to add the images that I'm hoping to achieve similar quality.

I did read about the Raynox DCR 250, but I'm unsure if it's really for my type of close ups.

I'm not an expert or experienced, so any non technical straightforward advice would be appreciated.

Links to pictures :



  • edited August 2014
    Hi Rabzy,
    Don't blame the poor T2i. It is one of if not the best consumer cameras available in my opinion. Now to your problem. Forget the Raynox unless you want to photograph 1 hair in an eyebrow or up someone's nose ! The kit lens or the 50mm require you to get intimidatingly close to your subject and produce issues with perspective. There are a range of lenses which would suit your needs (they are sometimes called portrait lens due to being used most often for this kind of work).
    There are prime lenses which come in 60mm, 85mm, 100mm flavors (on your crop factor T2i these would be actually 96mm, 136mm and 160mm) and are often also macro.
    Then there are some decent zooms which cover all those focal lengths. With either type you can shoot from further away, but get the close-ups you require.
    If cost is an issue then use your kit lens from further away and use software to crop your photo. You have 18 megapixels to play with, so a fair amount of cropping can be done.
    Hope this helps,
  • edited August 2014
    Hard to tell, but by looking at the photos you can identify some of the techniques used.
    Here’s what I can observe with my amateur eyes:

    Regarding the 2 shots of the opened eye: What really makes this photo pop is the accurate focus and the catchlight in the eye. Normally when photographing people, you focus right on the eye. Here, the focus appears to be on the plane right above the eye. So the lashes and the area surrounding the eye are in sharp focus. I suppose that’s by design since it’s trying to highlight the makeup.
    The catchlight in the eye seems to be done by having the subject look up at a skylight in the ceiling and then shooting down at the subject. There are various ways to get the catchlight to show up. Using an off-camera flash on an umbrella stand is usually how it’s done in the studio setting. The catchlight is VERY important. Look at every ad for eyeliners or mascara or those lash things. In every picture of the eye, there’s ALWAYS a catchlight.

    Regarding the shot of the lips: What makes this photo pop is that it’s off-centered and cropped. It would have been boring to show the entire lips with the center right in the middle of the frame. This goes back to composition and the Rule of Thirds. Having the lips off-centered just makes the image more interesting. Having it cropped helps to eliminate the background distractions, bring the viewer closer and provide more of a sense of intimacy. It kind of pulls you into the photograph, doesn’t it?

    Regarding the shot of the face: This shot is all about knowing how to compose and how to pose your model. Again, the subject is off-centered. If you look closely, there’s some golden spiral action going on as well. The model’s face is tilted in a way that is most flattering and brings out the cheekbones.

    So, what can you do to reproduce these images?
    Composition is VERY important.
    Nailing your focus is VERY important.
    Knowing how to work the model is VERY important.
    That’s the hard part.

    Now the easy part is the gear.
    Off-camera flash would help a great deal in getting these shots. An on-camera external flash would be the next best thing since you can still bounce and/or diffuse it. Do NOT use the pop-up flash.
    A fast tele macro lens for those close-ups would be ideal (I suppose something like the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM). The budget solution would be to just use your 50mm as close as you can.
  • edited August 2014
    Thank you both for taking the time to reply. Much appreciated.

    What got me most about all these images was the high level of detail on the eyes, lips and the clarity is so good. No matter how close as I get with my 50mm I can't get that good of detail, and perhaps I could not even be using my settings correctly. I thought it could possibly be more related to the lens above all.

    Ohyeahar, you've raised a lot of good points regarding composition and focus. See truthfully, I don't really know much about the manual setting, and I'm not getting good enough pictures with my auto setting. That is likely user error. Somewhere else on another site I saw the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM is recommended. Do you know much about it?

    I don't have enough room for umbrellas and the like so I'm trying to go the minimalistic and cost effective route. Perhaps that explains my pictures' I'm always flicking to manual changing the setting to 1/160 and f/4.5, and using the flash with a lighting system I bought for my work.

    Ultimately, I'm not trying to start out aiming for an editorial beauty add like photography, as I have a lot to understand about using this. I was really just hoping to find a better way to capture this level of detail and focus.

    What would be the main difference between lenses like the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM and the 100mm you mentioned?
  • edited August 2014
    Hi again,
    The only difference between the two lenses is the focal length which also governs their field of view. The 60mm has a wider field of view than the 100mm. They are both superb optics and ideally suited to your needs. Comes down to your personal choice in the end and if it was me, I'd go for the 100mm simply because it gives you more working room, but visit a good camera shop with your T2i and test them both out.
  • edited August 2014
    Thanks PBked for replying again. I'll go out to test them on the weekend. I guess that'll be the best way to tell.
  • edited August 2014
    Hi @Rabzy, how good is your flash setup?
    I think that’s the one gear-related thing that would help tremendously with what you’re trying to achieve. Unless you’re outdoors in daylight, there’s often not enough light to bring out the macro details you’re looking for. Bounce the flash off a white ceiling and have a reflector below the subject.

    Note that using a low ISO is crucial when you’re taking those macro shots. Even a tiny bit of image noise is noticeable with that much detail being shown. If you crop, that makes things even worse.
  • edited August 2014
    @ohyeahar - thanks for replying again.
    I meant I was using the built in flash on my camera and perhaps that's why my photos were not coming out. I don't have an external flash, I just have a lighting system which is basically a lamp with LED lighting.

    I think I get the term "bounce a flash off a white ceiling". Is there further info on these techniques for beginners in the forum?
  • edited August 2014
    Hi Rabzy
    Yes, lots of info. Just type in 'bouncing flash' in the question box at the top of this page and press 'Find an answer'.
  • edited August 2014
    As PBked suggested, you should definitely read more on bounce flash either here on this site or elsewhere. It’s an easy technique and the results look amazing.

    Here’s the main gist:
    What you want to do is to diffuse your flash. You do that by enlarging the source of the light. You can do that by aiming your flash at a reflector. Since most ceilings are white, you can take advantage of that by aiming your flash up to use the ceiling to reflect the light back down.

    If you don’t want to invest into getting an external flash unit, then you can still work with what you already have. Whether or not this is effective depends on the size and brightness of your lamp. Take your LED lamp and aim it at your subject. Diffuse the light by placing a large white sheet in between the lamp and your subject. This would work best if you have 2; one on either side angled at 45 degrees.
  • edited August 2014
    Thanks to you both for replying. I am going to check out the lenses over the weekend and see how I do.

  • edited April 2017
    I have a D300, and a Nikon AF MICRO NIKOR 60mm 1:2.8D lens fitted. How do I get it to work on Auto Focus? Can anyone help?
  • edited April 2017
    @robincw, do you mean a Nikon D300, a Canon 300D, or did you leave out a zero in the Nikon D3000?

    The AFD lenses have no internal lens motor, so they rely on a motor in the camera to provide AF through a mechanical linkage.

    The D300 has an internal focus motor, and should be able to auto focus with any AFD lens, assuming that both camera and lens are set to AF. I don't think any Canon lens adapters that use Nikon lenses can auto focus with the mechanical AF mechanism of an AFD lens. The Nikon D3x00 and D5x00 family of cameras do not have an AF motor, and also cannot auto focus with an AFD lens.
  • edited April 2017
    Hello Bruto, sorry, my mistake. My Camera is the Nikon D3000. I am a bit muddled, is my camera what you refer to as a Nikon D3x00 family?
    Thanks again.
  • edited April 2017
    Yes, the D3000 is the first member of the family consisting of D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300 and D3400, all of which are evolved from the basic design. None of these have a camera body focus motor, and that means that they do not auto focus with older lenses. All but the D3400 will meter correctly in all modes, which means it will likely do fine for macro where auto focus often is overridden anyway. The D3400 will treat an AFD lens as it does a manual lens, functioning only in full manual mode.
  • I have a Canon 300D rebel and I just purchased a nifty fifty lens to take pictures indoors of our children's 2 and 3 yrs birthday parties and just random shots indoors. Do you have any advice for settings as they are always on the move. Thanks and this is a great find for an amateur like me.
  • edited November 2017
    Well that is an historic piece of technology you have there - great in its day.
    1 You might like to take some test shots using some of the white balance presets or create a custom white balance - this is to lessen colour casts from different types of lighting.
    2 Set your drive mode to continuous.
    3 Set your AF mode to AI Servo Focus - this mode acts like one shot until the subject moves and then tracks like AI Servo.
    4 Unless your children are doing 100metre dash, a shutter speed of 1/250 in Tv mode should be enough.
    5 Now for the last setting which is a little more problematic and that is ISO. Low light shooting such as indoors normally requires a higher ISO. Although you can go up to 1600 on your camera, I would suggest that anything higher than 400 is going to become noisy. Even with a good post processing software, 1600 is more or less unusable. Stick with 400 and jiggle your aperture and shutter speed a little.
    6 Also be aware of the reduced depth of field if intending to shoot at F1.8.

    I offer these suggestions as my opinion only and do not guarantee your results.
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