How to use Extension Tubes with Macro Photography | A Cheap Way to Photograph Small Things


Today I’m going to show you how to use
extension tubes with macro photography to get much cheaper macro photos sometimes when the weather’s pretty bad outside, you still need to feed the photography bug and this is a really cheap way of doing it now some lenses have the word macro printed on them but they’re not actually
macro lenses they do get you a little bit closer to the subject but not like a
true macro lens so with an actual dedicated macro lens it has a lot of
technology inside to be able to get the lens really close to small subjects
however this technology comes at a price so the cheaper alternative is to use
extension tubes and with extension tubes you can go from this to this extension
tubes basically pull the lens away from the camera giving that lens a shorter
minimum focusing distance they normally come in a set of two or three different
tubes some have the electronic connectors and some don’t now you can
use all of these tubes together to get as close as possible or you can choose
which one you use to get a certain minimum focusing distance the more tubes
you use the closer the subject will be to the
end of your lens one thing I have noticed is that these kits for the Sony
cameras on Amazon come in sets of two whereas all of the ones that I’ve bought
from my Canon lenses come in sets of three the Canon ones therefore can get
much closer and this is why it’s really good to shoot from a tripod for one and
also if you’re using a really long extension tube to maybe look at getting
macro sliders this is where you can just subtly adjust the camera backwards or
forwards getting closer or further away to your subject but in my new detailed
changes so you can change it by millimeters or less and this is critical
when it comes to macro photography the one other thing that affects how these
extension tubes work with the lenses that you have is the actual minimum
focusing distance of that lens before you use the extension
if that minimum focusing distance of the lens that you’re using is already really
short when you fit the extension tubes you may find that the lens is almost on
top of the subject so you really need to choose wisely in what lens you use with
my 24 to 17 millimeter at 24 millimetres this is about 5 millimeters away from
the front element when I use both of the extension tubes which is way too close
when i zoom out to 17 millimeters however this focusing distance is quite
far away what I’ve found that works the best is a 50 millimeter or longer focal
length with a minimum focusing distance of around about 20 to 30 centimetres
what lens you use is up to you so just experiment with what you have and I’m
sure you’ll be able to find a lens that works so first of all you want to attach
your extension tubes and it’s exactly like fitting a lens so I put the tube on
the lens and then attach them to the camera I’ve also side lit the scene with
a big soft box if you don’t have a light just get near to a big window that
doesn’t have direct sunlight shining through it and this will give you this
nice big soft light you’re gonna be really close and zoomed in so any
movement will cause the frame to change drastically so what you’ll find is when
you focus on your subject only a small fraction of it will actually be in focus
the first thing that we can do to combat this is to close the aperture down now
you don’t really want to go past f-16 because of diffraction if you’re not
sure what diffraction is and want to learn more click on the eye in the
corner this will take you to a video explaining this however at f-16 that
depth of focus is still quite narrow because we’re so close to that subject
so the next thing to do is focus stack now the reason we need to focus stack
when doing macro photography shots is because of that focus plane because the
subject is so close to the lens that focus plane is so narrow
so holding onto the camera handheld see when that focusing point is and then
that’s where you need to put your tripod now I’ve got some coins and my wallet
and I’ve got a few banknotes this gives a feel to the photo of my pocket
contents just being dumped out on the side I’ve got the electronic connectors
through the extension tubes so I’m going to use my focusing points on the back of
the camera so I can show you what I’m doing if you have the cheaper manual
extension tubes then you just have to focus your lens manually using the focus
ring you’ll do exactly as I am but when I focus to a different point you’ll just
turn that focusing ring just slightly once your camera is in place turn it to
manual mode set the aperture to f-16 the ISO to 100 and then change the shutter
speed to suit your lighting manual mode is critical to keeping the exact same
exposure for every shot so they will stack more easily set the drive mode to
self timer to seconds with these extension tubes from me where they do
have the connectors built-in so I can control the focus with the auto focusing
system in the camera so I’ll set my focusing point to flexible spot small
then I’ll focus on the nearest points are one in focus and the furthest point
are one in focus this is just to ensure that everything of that subject will be
in focus once I’ve stacked the shots once I know I can focus from the closest
point to the furthest point that I want in the shot I’ll start focusing to those
different points in the shot and then taking photos set focus to the closest
part and then take a shot then move the focusing square up slightly focus once
again and take the second shot continue this until you have all of the
shots you need from the front to the back of your subject
now the key is to touch the camera as little as possible you just want to make
sure you don’t move it at all because it’s zoomed in it will really show any
kind of movements and this is why you have it on a self-timer
once you have got all of those photos you’re done and it’s time to bring those
photos into Photoshop I tend to put them into Lightroom and then export them from
Lightroom to photoshop and then back again I do most of my light editing in
Lightroom and all my heavy editing in Photoshop so I’ve imported my photos
into Lightroom you can see I have them on the filmstrip at the bottom I’m going
to select all of my photos from that one stack I’m gonna right click on them and
then I’m going to click on edit in and edit as layers in Photoshop then all I
need to do is wait for Photoshop to open all of the images in a layer stack once
they’ve opened up in Photoshop go to your layers panel and select all layers
next we want to click on edit and auto align layers what this does is align
your subject if there’s not too much movement between the frames it should
align them really well if this doesn’t work you may have to go back and shoot
the subject again but that’s the beauty with macro photography you’ll normally
have a setup at home and then you’ll have your laptop so you can tether or
you can just send your images to your laptop edit them and if it doesn’t work
you can go back to your camera next you want to blend the layers together so
click on edit auto blend layers and then stack layers Photoshop should then stack
all of these together just showing you the parts that are in focus if you look
at the layers panel you’ll see it’s masked out the parts that it thinks that
are out of focus if you have brought your photos across from Lightroom now
it’s time to save your image press command S or ctrl s if you’re on a PC
this should then save the image and send it back to Lightroom once I’m back in
Lightroom I’ll do all of my editing I’ll tweak and tune the shot to exactly how I
want it and then I’ll export it if you want to learn
more about editing in Lightroom click on the I in the corner I have a couple of
tutorials on that subject if you’re not sure about Photoshop don’t worry too
much it seems more intimidating than it
actually is you just want to do small projects like this and just learn small
things at a time then after a while you’ll realize that you’ve learnt a lot
more and you know the program and you can use it with confidence I do have a
video on the most useful things for photographers in Photoshop click on the
eye in the corner and that will give you a link to this video and that’s about it
extension tubes are a really cheap way of getting into macro photography like
I’ve already said if you really enjoy doing this and what to really get into
it properly it would be worth buying a macro photography lens however if you
just want to do it every now and then or it’s just a hobby or a side part to your
hobby extension tubes are the way to go and with a bit of patience and time you
can build a stack of photos and get some really nice looking macro shots now have
you tried macro photography have you used extension tubes or have
you got a dedicated macro lens it’ll be great to hear how you guys have got on
with macro photography as always if you like what you see give me a thumbs up if
you didn’t give me a thumbs down and for weekly tutorials hints and tips in
photography and videography subscribe and turn on notifications I’ll see you
next time

21 Replies to “How to use Extension Tubes with Macro Photography | A Cheap Way to Photograph Small Things”

  1. This is new for me. This video have some clarity about extension tubes compared with tele converters. I got confused sometimes both are same.
    Interesting tutorial. Superb.

    Finally, 1st like and 1st comment.

  2. Another really good video Mike and something I'm quite interested in.

    When I bought the A7III a few months back I picked up some cheap macro tubes on Amazon for it.

    I played around a bit with it then but I had major issues getting it to focus with any of my lenses.

    This has given me a new sense of urgency to see if I can figure them out or if I bought turkeys perhaps 🤣

    Thanks again for the content 👍🏻

  3. Great video, Mike. I just ordered the Neewer extension tubes. I am looking forward to playing around with them. I enjoy macro photography, but I am building out my lenses with with ones that are more versatile before I invest in a dedicated macro lens. This will allow me to see if I might really want to purchase a macro lens in the future.

  4. Nice one Mike. You told me in the past that you will create one video like this. Thank you for your time and for these golden info. Good job

  5. Mike you are the greatest!! i have the neewer macro tubes and didnt knew i could you is with the focusing point on auto focus!! THANKS!!! appreciate all your contributions!!

    Best regards from spain

  6. 👍Excellent post, Mike — title understates extent of valuable info. Surprised you did this subject considering all the astrophotography et al in prior vids. I enjoy macro work and have tried extension tubes, then dedicated macro lenses which I prefer. The Sony e-mount system w/adapters enable use of some very good Nikon macros as well. Tubes w/o electrical contacts for a given cam not only don’t auto-focus, but don’t relay image lens exif data. Focusing rails a real plus. Some focus stack techniques call for moving entire cam w/lens (e.g., via focus rail) instead of AF for each image. Your thoughts? BTW, cool key fob 😁 (carved ivory?).

  7. How about we stack 2 or 3 of those of those Neewer sets on our camera, hmm? (raised eyebrows). Now we need a flash.
    Or..reverse your lens.
    Wild life is more interseting.

    Thanks for the post tips 🙂

  8. Very humble, honest and precise explaining like always, thank you! Your channel deserves a lot more attention.
    I have the a7 III too and I'm interested in macro photography, but not that much yet that I would instantly buy a macro lens. Actually it's a new field for me, so this solution ist a good start to begin with.

  9. Excellent tutorial, Mike! I have stacked w/ astro pics but not micro. I have and use the extension tubes and it is really neat. Insects are pretty interesting! I have never stacked the micro pics and you just showed how easy it is and the dramatic improvement of the final picture. Thank you!

  10. Another wonderful video! I didn't know about the macro slider. Looks like a great tool if you do a lot of macro photography. You seem to have a video for any subject that I am thinking about exploring. All without 30 minutes of fluff.

  11. Good stuff, Mike. I’ve been playing around with this and having fun. I hear recommendations that image stabilization should be off when on the tripod. Not sure how much effect it really has, but it makes sense to me.
    I have the Sony 90 mm macro and extension tubes for really close stuff. At that point I think you get more into abstract stuff which is still fun. Definitely recommend the focusing rail/slider. They can add a bit of weight, especially if you take it into the field, but worth it in my opinion. My problem with all this on the tripod is when I’m shooting at a downward angle, the bullhead slips a little.

  12. A couple of thing to note on extension tubes. (1) be aware that extension tubes do cost you a stop or so of light. For still subjects on a tripod, that probably doesn't matter but when outside shooting flowers or insects, that lost light can become a big problem and the more tubes you use, the more light you lose. (2) The other really important reminder is if you buy the smart tubes with electrical connections as you had, all is groovy but if you buy the dumb tubes without electrical pins, you likely lose control of your aperture since it uses those pins also. That means you have to set the aperture without the tubes then remove it and add the tubes and lens. Each time you need an aperture change, same drill. I always always stress to my workshop participants to never buy the dumb version. Yes, they are really really cheap but there is a reason for that.

  13. Mike, I took your advice on Photoshop. Really feeling much more confidant and feel like it's possible to actually learn the program now. Thank you!

  14. Maybe it's a location thing (USA here), but I have a Nikon and I only see the extension tubes in sets of three. Just throwing that out there.

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