Friday, March 28, 2014

Pro-Tip #16: Get Creative with Magic Lantern

This year in my Pro-Tip section I am writing about ways to get creative so your images will standout from the other 880 billion photos that are expected to be taken in 2014. Magic Lantern (ML) is one of those tools to help accomplish that goal. Magic Lantern (ML) is a FREE software add-on that runs from the SD/CF card and adds a host of new features to Canon EOS cameras that weren't included from the factory by Canon. Developed by independent film makers in their spare time ML augments the factory settings and features with a plethora of new features including: 
  • Audio: disable AGC, audio meters, manual audio controls, selectable input source (internal, internal+external, external stereo, balanced), audio monitoring via A/V cable.
  • Exposure helpers: zebras, false color, histogram, waveform, spot meter, vector scope.
  • Focus tools: focus peaking, zoom while recording, trap focus, rack focus, follow focus, focus stacking.
  • Movie helpers: Bit rate control, movie logging (Exif-like metadata), auto-restart after buffer overflow or 4 GB limit, HDR video, advanced FPS control.
  • LiveView adjustments: contrast, saturation, display gain for using LiveView in darkness. Cropmark images: user-editable overlays to assist framing and composition.
  • Fine control for ISO, Shutter, Kelvin white balance and other image settings.
  • Bracketing: advanced exposure bracketing, focus stacking.
  • Remote release with LCD face sensor and audio trigger, without extra hardware.
  • Timelapse: intervalometer (for photos and movies), bulb ramping (manual and automatic), recording at very low FPS (down to 0.2 FPS), silent pictures without shutter actuation.
  • Astro- and night photography: bulb timer for very long exposures (up to 8h).
  • Info displays: focus and DOF info, CMOS temperature, shutter count, clock.
  • For strobists: flash exposure compensation, range up to -10 to +3 EV (depends on the camera).
  • Power saving: Turn off display or reduce backlight in LiveView during idle times.
  • Handy features: Quick zoom in PLAY mode, key shortcuts for commonly-used features, customizable menus.
  • And much more!
Some of the features I use regularly are:

Auto Exposure Bracketing - I particularly like the added control when shooting Auto Exposure Brackets with ML managing the shoot sequence you can take up to 9 shots with +/- 0.5 to 5 EVs between exposures with a single press of the shutter button.  Additionally, ML will add a 2 second timer delay to the start of the sequence and lock the mirror up to reduce sources of vibration.

Intervalometer - Having a built-in intervalmeter is great for taking timelapse sequences where you can set the start delay, duration between shots and stop after X number of pictures. It also works in Movie Mode and allows you to set the duration of the movie clip.

Stack Focus - This selection will shoot a series of photographs with varying focus points. It is used in macro photography to assemble sharper final images by merging photos where each has a different focus point. I use it on landscape images where I am extremely close to my foreground and I want it to be in sharp focus as well as the distant background elements.

Motion Detection Triggers - Trigger modes to choose from: Exposure Change: it only reacts to brightness changes. Detects large moving subjects which cause significant change in exposure or Frame Difference: it computes the difference between the last two frames A and B (luma channel only); this detects smaller movements which do not change exposure. Detection time is somewhere between 200 and 300 ms. Great for wildlife camera traps, lightening shoots, or taking images of the family pet when you are away.

I could go on but it would be better if you download ML and read the 56 page user manual which covers all the upgrades you will get for FREE.  You can download this program at  The added features that ML brings to your disposal will provide you with many new ways to step up your photographic game and get those shots other photographers would never think about due to the limitations of their factory equipment.

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