The Best Macro Lens Ever

2014-05-31_0004As many of you know I’m always on a search for ways to spend less and have MORE. If you are part of our Facebook Community then you probably have seen these photos and me posting about this macro lens a million times. For that, I do apologize, but no photographer should miss out on a good deal!

When I first started working with macro photography it was just for ring shots at weddings. I used to think it was so important to have the absolute best gear out there possible, and often times it is. However, macros weren’t the case. I started out by purchasing Canon’s 100mm f2.8 (non L) macro lens. This was great, but a little clunky. It didn’t seem to focus well and I wasn’t overly impressed with the sharpness of the photos. After awhile and a little bit of reading I finally decided to upgrade to the L version of the lens. This lens averages around $1000. So there, I had the best there was for macros right? Well I found taking it out of my camera bag for 25-30 times a year for one ring photo at a wedding seemed like a bit of a waste. It’s like walking around with $1000 burning a hole in your camera bag. I sold the lens (to Chad ironically). After that I tried a series of filters, macro attachments, extension tubes, etc. I was a bit disappointed. I didn’t want to spend big money on a macro that I would barely use, but I still wanted to rock my wedding ring shots.

It wasn’t until this past winter when I started thinking back to my early days as a photographer. I remember when I was so poor I couldn’t even buy a Canon 50mm 1.8 for $100. Instead I opted to go with the old film manual focus lenses just to save a little bit of money. I began to wonder if this would apply with macros and low and behold…it did. I asked around and nobody seemed to know much about Canon’s older film and manual focus lenses. These are generally categorized as FD lenses because the older Canon bodies had an FD attachment, where our new ones have the EOS attachment.

One day I was searching around on for used FD macro lenses and I stumbled across the Canon 100mm f4 macro FD lens. It was $80 used. It couldn’t hurt, right? So I bought it. That was only a couple months ago and let me tell you – that was the best $80 I have ever spent on my business, ever!

Since we’ve discussed this in our Facebook group several times here are a few common questions people ask related to my experience with this lens:

1. Average price?
If you buy it used you can find it for between $80-150. Both price points are great deals on a macro lens. Comparibly the Canon 100mm non-L lens averages about $500 and the L version $1000.

2. What about the aperture?
Yep, it only goes as low as f4. Many of you know I like to shoot wide open. The one big exception to shooting wide open has always been with macro ring shots, you can lose so much with such a shallow depth of field when you’re that close to the object you’re photographing. I often have my macro aperture set much higher than f4.

3. What about the manual focus?
What about it? If you’re mainly using a macro to capture wedding rings and newborn toes you don’t need to worry about auto focus. The auto focus on even the newer EOS lenses is still difficult to use and not recommended when shooting macro. If you’re mainly using this for only occasional use this lens will be perfect for you. Some photographers like to use the 100mm/105mm macro lenses to shoot portraits. If you do that you’ll probably want to invest in an auto-focus version.

4. Is there a Nikon equivalent?
Of course! This is also a discontinued old film lens you will want to buy used and goes for a similar price point. You can find the Nikon 105mm f/4 macro >here<

5. Will this fit on my camera (full frame, cropped, etc.)?
Yep! If you’re using a newer Canon EOS body (which is most likely you are) you just need to buy an EOS to FD adapter. I bought a very cheap one on Amazon, brand doesn’t matter.

6. Where can I buy it?
Well after all my posts about it a lot my usual haunts for used gear are currently out. Keep an eye out for it on Ebay, Amazon, and at or other used camera gear retailers.

7. How did you get that awesome bokeh in your photos?
Well….by getting myself a ring kit together. A friend of mine, Ashley Fisher, is an amazing photographer in St. Louis and put together a ring kit she brings to each wedding with glitter paper, beads and other props. I’ve been taking this to all my recent weddings and it’s amazing! You can find out more about her ring kit >here<

Here’s a few sample photos to show you what it’s capable of. I don’t fancy myself the best photographer, but I think these are pretty sweet.


How to Clean Your Camera

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Hello world! Thanks for all your support and nice emails while I was down and out being sick with the flu. I’m SO happy to be getting back to blogging with you!

As the season slows down and you’re photographing less I really want all of you to consider taking your camera in for a cleaning. This is something that should be done annually, and sometimes photographers who use their cameras often will do it twice per year.

Essentially you just want your camera sensor to be cleaned, and have the pros give your camera a “check-up.” This can be super important for your camera’s health for the rest of the year. A check-up and cleaning can prevent worse problems down the line and sending your camera in now while you have time may save you lots of money and tears later.

Send it in to the Manufacturer for Cleaning
There are lots of different options for this. You can use the >Canon Professional Services< for repair or cleaning or >Nikon’s Professional Services.< You also have the option of using any local stores and their services as well.

One thing I would reccomend for Canon and Nikon users is paying an annual fee and becoming a member of the Professional Services groups above (for whatever camera type you have). This can save you money, and having a membership will often give you discounts on repairs, camera loans when yours is in service, quicker repair times and free annual cleanings. If you’re not a member and still want to send in your camera for cleaning you can still do that, but you may want to rent a camera from Borrow Lenses in the meantime so business doesn’t slow down.

When to Clean Your Camera & Lenses
As photographers we use our cameras pretty often and while there is no perfect time to clean your camera, when you start changing lenses and notice a lot of dust – get it cleaned. You may also notice dust spots on your images as well from your sensor.

Cleaning your lenses is another story. You can purchase a lens cleaning kit. I recommend if you are using your camera on a weekly basis to take the time to clean it once a week. When you purchase a lens cleaning kit follow the instructions carefully. The last thing you want to do is be rough with your camera and scrape the tinniest piece of dust across your glass.

Can I Clean My Own Camera?
Cleaning your sensor yourself may come with a risk of damaging your sensor too. A damaged sensor can be expensive to fix. If you aren’t familiar with your sensor or the inside of your camera I would say it’s safest to send it in to the experts to do it. The cost of a cleaning won’t be as much as a repair if you mess up your sensor trying to do it yourself. However, if you’re really sure you know what you’re doing, you can grab a cleaning kit online and do it yourself.

How Much Does It Cost?
With the Canon or Nikon Professional Services Membership you pay your membership fee and the cleanings are usually free.
I called my local camera store, which also does long distance repairs if you ship your camera in, Mike’s Camera, and they quoted me $65 for a cropped sensor and $95 for a full frame sensor. Each of these prices were quoted with one lens attached so you can get your lens professional cleaned as well. Additional lenses were around $18 each. If you take your camera to the manufacturer they will also update the firmware as well, so that’s something to consider.

So what am I going to do? I’m going to get myself a Canon Professional Services membership. Their middle tiered membership costs $100 annually and includes 2 cleanings among other things. Although, one of my cameras is still under warranty so I may send it in for free for a cleaning before the warranty runs out too.

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5 Tips on Buying Used Camera Equipment

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1. Buy or trade in your old equipment at Okay let’s admit it now, if you trade in your old equipment you probably won’t get it at optimum value, but you will avoid having to claim the money you get from it as a business profit. Typically when I sell something to KEH it’s because it wouldn’t sell on or because I knew it wouldn’t sell ever and I wanted to get something from it while I could. One of the things I really appreciate about KEH is that you can purchase a used lens and get it with a warranty. I often times feel a bit sketchy purchasing from somewhere else and not being sure that what I get is actually a worthwhile product. If I can purchase it with a warranty that’s a guarantee that if it’s horrible or doesn’t work, I can get it replaced or fixed for free. I’ve paid about $49 per lens from KEH for 2 year warranties and I’ve also been absolutely thrilled with their customer service. The products I purchased were much higher quality wise than they actually rated them and I read online that this is pretty standard for them.

2. A lot of you guys email and ask about purchasing used equipment, especially camera bodies. I wouldn’t recommend purchasing a used camera unless it’s a good deal at a good price and you can guarantee it’s been checked over with the manufacturer recently. Does it come with paperwork proving the shutter count? These are all questions to ask before you dive in and purchase used. I did not purchase my primary camera used, but all of my backup cameras have been purchased used so I could save a little money on a great camera and guarantee that I have a great camera just in case the worst happens. My rule of thumb is that if the seller can provide documents proving it’s been in recently for service and prove the shutter count then I’m good to go. I also want to purchase it through a company where I can be assured that if the sender doesn’t send it or something happens I can get my money back. Remember to ask a lot of questions and be sure about a used camera purchase before you dive in.

3. Buy used equipment from a reputable seller. B&H Photo and Borrow Lenses are great for purchasing used gear. Reputable companies like these selling used gear always inspect and repair anything before selling it. If you purchase used on ebay you cannot guarantee the product is in working condition before you purchase.

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4. There are several buy and sell groups for used equipment on Facebook you can check out. People sell used equipment often and sometimes it’s at a great price. I recently bought a used shootsac among other items from various members of these groups. Here are the links to the groups if you want to ask to join! They’re also a great place to sell used equipment as well. These are the three main groups I’m a part of, but I’m sure there are plenty of others for specific equipment types like Sony, Nikon, and Olympus. If you’re looking for a good deal, do keep these groups in mind. I once saw a Canon 85mm 1.2L going for $1300 and it’s new retail price is normally about $2200!

>Canon Equipment: Buy and Sell<
>Camera Gear<
>Photog Gear Online Swap Meet<

5. If you’re looking for an item that is no longer being made, buying used can definitely save the day. The three Facebook groups I listed above that you can join often have used or vintage cameras come up for sale if you watch closely. You’ll be able to buy film and other items that are no longer being made. The Canon 5D mark i (Classic) is no longer being made as well as the Canon 50D and other cameras, but these great cameras come up for sale often used.


20 Things I Wish I Knew About Photographing in Manual Mode

manual mode1. ISO is an important setting you shouldn’t ignore. It works differently than ISO on an old film camera. It controls how sensitive your camera’s image sensor is to light. When you have a lot of available light use a low ISO and in low light you can use a higher ISO.

2. WB or White Balance is a setting used to get the right types and tones of color you want in your images. Different types of lights can create color casts on white objects or skin tones in images and white balance is a great tool for correcting this. For example, fluorescent lights can make white sheets appear greenish. Tungsten lights (like a table lamp) can make things appear very orange or yellow. Cameras have many settings for White Balance, but learning to use custom white balance is something that can rock your digital photography world.

3. Aperture (or f-stop) controls how much light is allowed through your lens by setting the f-stop. There’s actually a lovely little thingy right inside your lens that opens and closes to let light in or out. A lower f-stop (like 1.4) will let in a lot of light and a higher f-stop (like 16) will let in less light. Aperture also controls bokeh (that beautiful background blur). You get more bokeh with lower apertures.

4. Shutter speed controls how long the image sensor is exposed to light. Higher shutter speeds prevent motion blur and freeze motion, but let in less light because the shutter is not open as long. A lower shutter speed will let in more light, but may give your subjects motion blur if they are moving in the photo because the shutter is open longer.

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5. You don’t need to use manual focus to photograph in manual mode. Manual mode is all about learning to have control over your camera instead of letting it control you. Manual focus will entail a few extra seconds to use the focusing ring on your lens in order to capture a sharp image. Many photographers auto focus so they can photograph and capture moments quicker and ensure they are tack sharp.

6. We all know that the camera does not make the photographer, but a super awesome photographer who has a handle on shooting in manual knows how to control the camera really well and can rock any type of camera (even that iPhone).

7. Every camera has a ‘sweet spot.’ Even when you’re photographing in manual and you’re looking through the viewfinder and the line is right in the very center of your light meter it may still be too bright or too dark in your camera. My camera’s sweet spot is just one line over toward underexposed from that center spot on my light meter.

8. When photographing in manual there are no ‘go to’ settings for shutter speed, aperture, or anything else. You photograph and set your camera up for what’s best in that light or for whatever it is you want to achieve.

9. The higher your ISO is the more ‘noisy’ or grainy your photos will be. Know that there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a style choice. I love grainy black and white images from wedding receptions, but it’s not everyone’s style. If you have to push your ISO up higher you’re not doing anything wrong.

10. Shooting in RAW mode instead of JPEG will help Manual photographers in case they get the exposure or white balance a bit off. A RAW photo holds all of your camera information in the file and can be easily fixed later in Photoshop without ruining the photo.

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11. Practice! Photographing in manual is hard, but it will force you to learn your camera inside and out and you’ll be a better photographer for it. It takes practice so don’t expect everything to come naturally the first time out.

12. Don’t believe the myth that all professional photographers photograph in aperture priority or some other mode. Believing that is an excuse to not become an expert in your camera. All pro photographers have a favorite mode they photograph in, but you can guarantee all of them also know how to photograph in manual and that learning experience helps them know which choice or mode is the best one for them to use in any given situation.

13. Tack sharp images are a problem. If you’re shooting in manual make sure your shutter speed isn’t too low so you don’t get motion blur. Tack sharp images have a lot more to do with lenses than anything else.

14. Many portrait and wedding photographers photograph “wide open,” meaning on the lowest f-stop their lens will allow so they get portraits with background bokeh (blur) and sharp subjects in the foreground. To achieve that look try to keep your f-stop at 2.8 or lower.

15. Steps to setting up in manual: First set white balance, second set ISO, then set aperture, and finally your shutter speed.

16. Scott Kelby’s digital photography books are great for showing you photos and the settings recipe. His recipes may not be right for everyone’s styles, but I learned a lot by looking through his books and trying some of the shots for myself.

17. It’s okay to ask for help.

18. Do some test shots. Your camera records its settings in the image file so you don’t have to write them down separately. You can test your camera, test settings, and see the difference in how manual feels and looks by going back later and looking through your images and seeing what the settings are that helped you achieve a certain look.

19. You won’t get things right every shot. There will be lots of over exposed and underexposed shots when you photograph manual and you’re learning your settings.

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20. Once you’ve mastered your manual settings in your DSLR camera, you can purchase an external flash and start learning about setting your flash manually to perfect your settings with that. Using a flash will affect how your settings look completely differently so if you’re into flash photography you’ll want to learn what settings mean with and without your flash.

These tips are not by any means rules to follow. These are tips that made learning photography easier for me, and there are more tips out there I’m sure. There is no wrong or right way to learn to photograph in manual mode and everyone has their own style and ways of doing things that work best for them.