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8 Best Tips For Macro Flash Photography

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In macro photography, getting enough light on your subject can be difficult.

If you shoot at a low f-stop number like f/1.8, you’ll have a very thin depth of field in your images. Your photographs might look out of focus and blurry.

The solution to this is using a macro flash. A simple portable flash like a Speedlite can open up a whole new world for you when it comes to macro lighting.

Read on for our 8 best tips for macro flash photography.

Photo of a butterfly on a flower
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What Makes Macro Photography Different?

A macro lens gives you the ability to shoot with short focusing distances. This allows you to take sharp photos of small subjects, like insects, or the stamen of a flower.

A true macro lens has a magnification ratio of 1:1 or greater. The focusing distance is around 30cm. This means that the ratio of the subject on the size of the sensor plane is as large as your subject, or larger.

Keep in mind that your macro lens will behave differently on a camera with a cropped sensor than on one with a full-frame. A 60mm lens on a camera with a cropped sensor will give you a focal length of around 80mm.

On a full-frame camera, the lens will function at its stated focal length. A 100mm lens gives you a 100mm focal length.

The most important thing to understand is that with macro photography, you get a”thinner” depth-of-field.

Depth-of-field is the difference between the nearest and farthest objects that are acceptably in focus. Your depth-of-field is thinner the shorter your distance is from your subject. This means that less is in focus.

Some of your subject may not be in focus enough, requiring you to shoot at higher f/stops, like f/9 or f/11. The result is that less light will enter your lens.

This is where a macro flash comes in to save the day.

Macro photo of a pink rose

8. Use a Ring Flash for Even Macro Lighting

A ring flash is perfect for macro lighting. It works differently than studio lighting or a Speedlite because it fits around your lens. This allows the light to spread out evenly around your subject area.

If you’ve ever used the built-in flash on a camera, you know how harsh the light can look in photographs.

Because it’s such a small light source, the on-camera flash emits very hard light. Since the light is directed toward your subject, it can be unflattering.

The light from a ring flash is even. It creates a soft, diffused look that is suitable for many lighting scenarios in macro photography.

Macro photo of a pink flower

7. Research Ring Lights for the Most Suitable Option in Your Price Range

As with most photo gear, there are ring light options in a wide price range. The better quality options are the most expensive, of course.

Some ring lights fit around your lens. Your camera shoots through the ring with other models. There are a wide variety of options, so do your research.

Some ring lights supply a constant source of light instead of a flash.

If macro is a big part of your photographic work or a serious hobby, investing in a better quality macro flash ring is well worth it.

Here are some suggestions to look at different price points:

Godox macro flash ring set

6. Understand the Lighting Position

When you have a Speedlight attached to your camera, the light is coming from the front. This isn’t the ideal direction to best flatter the subject.

With photography, it’s not just about enough light, but also the direction of light. You can have a lot of control over your direction of light with a Speedlight mounted to a stand. If it’s attached to the front of your camera, the front lighting can look terrible on your subject.

For example, I shoot a lot of food and still life. In these cases, the light looks best if it’s coming from the side or somewhere from the back.

Front lighting is flat and lacks dimension, with a lack of the shadows that make a photo interesting.

When light is behind the subject, it emphasizes texture and enhances liquid properties, like raindrops.

It’s important to understand how your choice of lighting position affects your results. The next time you shoot, play around with different lighting directions and see how it affects your image.

Macro photo of water drops on leaves

5. Use the Appropriate Light Modifier

The right light modifier can do wonders for your results with macro flash photography, especially if you use a Speedlight.

Modifiers help you shape and direct the light. In general, natural-looking lighting is the best for macro photography.

Hard light is not an aesthetically pleasing look. A softbox modifier that you can attach to your Speedlight will help spread the light out and give you a more natural look.

There are many options for modifiers available. You could also look at domes, flash brackets, and light spheres.

Macro photo of white flowers

4. Know Your Camera’s Sync Speed

The important thing is that you set the shutter speed of your camera and Speedlight to your maximum sync speed.

This is the maximum shutter speed you can use when using flash. Your camera will dictate your maximum sync speed. It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, and even from camera to camera.

The sync speed for Nikon cameras is typically 1/250. For Canon, it’s 1/200. Look up the sync speed for your camera if you don’t know it. It’s usually a maximum of 1/200 or 1/250.

Test your camera to make sure. Although the maximum sync speed for my Canon 5D Mark III is 1/200, I get a black band across my images if I shoot with a shutter speed over 1/160th of a second.

Simply put, this is due to the shutter closing too slowly during the flash duration.

Macro photo of a green leaf

3. Buy a Mounting System for Your Camera

There are also a lot of useful mounting systems available through various manufacturers.

A mount can have features like articulating arms. This will allow you to change the position of your light quickly and easily.

Specialized brackets allow you to position large hot-shoe flashes.

Macro photo of a bee on a flower

2. Use the Semi-Automatic Functions on Your Camera

New photographers always hear how important it is to shoot in manual mode. However, the semi-automatic functions on your camera are there for a reason. They can make your life easier in certain situations, and there is nothing wrong with using them.

For example, if you put your camera in Shutter Priority mode, you can make sure that you don’t exceed your sync speed. The camera will choose the best aperture for your subject.

Alternatively, you can use Aperture Priority. Set your aperture to f/11 or f/13 to ensure that most of your subject is consistently in focus.

Macro photo of a bug

1. Add Colour to Your Macro Flash Photography

Add a unique quality to your images but injecting colour. Colour in macro photos can turn the most boring subject into an abstract work of art.

It’s also appropriate for so many macro subjects, like flowers. It is easy to do this with gels.

You can buy gels that attach to your Speedlight in a variety of forms. Some gels come with a strap that you can use to attach to your Speedlight. Others have tabs that allow you to fasten them to the light.

Make sure that whichever gels you get that they cover the light completely.

Abstract macro photography

What Is a Macro Ring Flash Used For?

A macro ring flash attaches to your lens. It provides even and natural-looking light with macro flash photography.

Do You Need a Flash for Macro Photography?

You don’t need to use a flash for macro photography, but without one, you might struggle to get enough light on your subject. Shooting wide open will give you a thin depth-of-field. Your subject will not be in sharp focus. A macro flash will allow you to increase your aperture to stops like F/9 and F/11.

What Is the Best Light for Macro Photography?

The best light depends on your subject and preference. Using flash will allow you to get more light onto your subject while increasing your F-stop high enough to get it in focus.

How Do You Make a Flash Diffuser for Macro Photography?

If you’re on a budget, you can make a DIY flash diffuser for macro photography. All you need is a white piece of paper or some white translucent fabric like window dressing. You can also cut a translucent plastic bottle in half and cover your Speedlight with it.

Conclusion

If you’ve been struggling with your macro photography, a simple macro flash device can take your image to the next level. Our tips will help you get started. To perfect your macro skills, try our Macro Magic course!

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