So I'm using the macro to photograph artwork with a T2i. I'm still just testing right now without studio lighting, but when I tried to zoom in (digitally) and focus with the camera display it seems to be such a fine adjustment. Not even the auto focus can get it right. Even if I get it right for one section manually there is no way to fully focus on other parts because if the painting is out of line by a millimeter it won't be in the same focus. It seems way too precise.

Sadly I can't check full results on my computer screen as my main computer died. But all said and done, zooming in fully on the camera's screen, I seem to to be getting slightly better results from the stock zoom lens. I found if i set it at about 35mm the edge distortions are minimal, I'm able to be much closer to the artwork then the 60mm macro, and results seem to be tiny bit sharper.

I thought if I closed up the aperture on a camera (going back 20 years) it would increase the focus-able range, but I'm not sure how to do that?

I'm not sure how the ISO and Aperture work if if they are one in the same. and I'm not sure if the 2.8 is a fixed setting or what. (sorry I've been overwhelmed trying to figure it all out). I've been inclined to go with 100iso because I understand that captures the most color. But even going up to 400+ doesn't seem to make much difference focusing. With the longer exposure and perhaps the extra length of the macro's distance from the subject, I fear even the shutter is causing micro movements on my budget tripod and perhaps the result is less sharp? Maybe I'll have better results when it's properly lit?

Anyway, just so far the results seem better from the stock lens. But maybe I can make some adjustments to the macro? just because it's not focusing perfectly zoomed in on the screen probably is not why I'm seeing less than stellar results.

4 Answers 4


ISO and Aperture are two totally different things.

For your purposes, you need a greater depth of field (DOF), which means that you need to decrease the aperture diameter (higher f-number).

Your ISO should be able to stay the same, assuming that you can increase the exposure time to compensate (this shouldn't be a problem if you are using a tripod).

Using a Canon T2i, you probably want to use Av Mode (Aperture Priority), and set the aperture somewhere in the f/5.6-f/8 range. This will probably give you a good sharp image and better DOF.

  • 1
    This worked perfect thanks! I finally found the aperture settings and the pictures so far look great. I'm back operating from a laptop and love how I can adjust just about everything from the computer. I'll do some more experimenting tomorrow.
    – kelly
    Feb 19, 2011 at 5:45
  • Also note that a lower ISO does NOT give you more color or better color. In film, the lower the ISO, the tighter the film grain. The same is true with digital, however, it is much less of a concern than with film, as the light is being captured and processed on an image sensor, rather than actual film. You will notice more digital noise with higher ISO ratings when using a digital camera. This is basically the digital equivalent of the graininess seen in higher ISO rated film. Jul 28, 2012 at 19:49

f/2.8 is NOT a fixed setting, it is the widest the aperture can open up. As you have found, closing it down a bit is usually a good thing. The kit lens has a max aperture of f/5.6 at 55mm, i.e. closest to the macro's focal length, which is two full stops down which gives a lot more depth of field automatically.

What mode is the camera in? Av, Green-square mode, P?

Now, assuming that you are using a tripod (which you should be):

  • Set the camera to M mode, this gives you full control over ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
  • Set the ISO to 100 and the aperture to whatever you want, I suggest f/8 as a starting point for maximum sharpness.
  • Now set the shutter speed to something that will give you a good exposure - since you are on a tripod you have a pretty free hand with the shutter speed. Adjust the shutter speed, and the shutter speed only, to give you the desired exposure.
  • 5
    Oh, and... cheaping out on the tripod is a bad, bad move. For your kind of job you want solid, you want heavy, you want stable; you do absolutely not want light and flimsy.
    – Staale S
    Feb 17, 2011 at 18:54
  • 2
    The camera should have a timer release function, too. This means that there is a 3 or 10 second delay from you push the shutter until the photo is taken. This lets the camera/tripod settle down after the button push.
    – Staale S
    Feb 17, 2011 at 20:04
  • Yep got this down now. Even with th timer I could see movement in the tripod, but I will be soon replacing that with a heavy duty tripod that also has the ability to shoot downward, which means I can use it as a copy stand for much of the smaller work. Anyway, operating from the computer and figuring out the aperture a bit now; well I'm a lot more confident. Test shots so far came out great but I'll experiment more tomorrow. I have another week to prepare so time to read the manual and learn more about the camera, and maybe grasp some of the basics.
    – kelly
    Feb 19, 2011 at 5:50

Remember that while you're focusing and composing your lens is wide open to give you the brightest viewfinder image it can. You can try pressing your depth of field preview button (which stops the lens down to the set aperture) but it will darken the viewfinder a lot.

Macro lenses, when focusing at such close range have a tiny depth of field, that is just the way it is. Even f/16 or more is very very small.

A good method of focusing is to switch the lens to MF and then set the focus to the nearest distance (if that is what you're trying to go for) Then move the camera back and forth to get focus where you want.

Tripod mounted is another way to go, you can also buy macro focusing racks that allow you to wind the camera forward or backward on the tripod head in tiny increments to allow more precise focus.

  • Thanks Jam. I set it back up shooting from a computer again and very pleased I can adjust everything remotely I found I can auto focus , but then the EOS utility gives me find adjustments on the computer and is even more precise than by hand. Plus figuring out the aperture settings means I have a lot more compensation available. I'm much more confident right now and already pleased even though haven't set up studio lights yet. Tomorrow I'm just going to take test shots with the macro vs the stock; both look great right now but I need some daylight to really check it out.
    – kelly
    Feb 19, 2011 at 5:55

Are you photographing paintings - relatively 2-d artwork - or sculpture? For paintings you will want to ensure the subject is perpendicular (flat-on) to the lens so that when one part of the painting is in focus, all of it should be in focus.

Regarding your problems with getting focus - it sounds like the auto-focus might be failing due to it being too dark. If you can't change the ambient lighting try using a torch to highlight a spot in the center, then get your camera's center point auto-focus target to lock on using this spot. Assuming you have a static camera and tripod you can then switch to manual focus to keep this setting.

Also, you need to read the manual for your camera to figure out how to set the aperture. Change to aperture-priority mode, set the aperture to something like f8 and see what kind of results you get. Digital film is relatively infinite so try playing around with the settings until you get something you're happy with.

  • Thanks Maynard. I got my computer back and now knowing how to adjust the aperture I'm very pleased with initial results, even without proper lighting. I've got more leeway than I imagined, and even if I have the paintings (98% 2d) a bit off line they seem to be staying in focus. I'll be experimenting more tomorrow...
    – kelly
    Feb 19, 2011 at 5:59

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