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Useful Photography Tip #49: Improving Macro Photography By Using a Flash

by G Servo on 12/21/2012

A lot of photographers think about their flash all wrong, especially when it comes to macro photography. I had to include myself in this. I eventually learned that using a flash in your macro photography makes things a whole lot easier. Flashes provide more control. While natural light is very nice, a flash can augment it or even replace it. You do not need a lot of gear and it is easy to start experimenting with this. Once you do though, you may be hooked.

Suggested Gear

When shooting macro, you need the right gear. Whether it be a DSLR Like a Canon T4I or a Micro 4/3s camera like the Olympus OMD, you need a good macro lens. Lenses like the Sigma 70mm macro , Canon’s 100mm F/2.8 Macros or the Yasuhara Nanohax5 5x Macro (Micro Four Thirds) are good choices for this. But as the title of this post suggests, you need a decent flash.  The flash matters more than your camera sensor. Gear like the Yongnuo 560 EX II Flash, for any system, flash modifiers and a sync cable are excellent tools to start with.

Stabilize

When shooting macro, be it natural light, or using a flash, stabilization is key. Without it, slight movement can blur the image. If you are hand holding your camera and using a flash, you may want to get your flash off of the camera (i.e. not in the hot shoe). The light control will improve significantly this way. Along with a wireless trigger, tripods like the Oben AC-1400, seen in the top image, can be configured to hold the camera over the subject. Tabletop tripods, like the Ultrapod II which can be strapped to things, in conjunction with synch cable and a flash can give you ultimate control of your macro images.

Control the Light

A flash can be used in many different situations. It can be used to light a subject, or add extra light to a subject. If you are shooting outside you can use the flash as a fill to add more detail to your subject. When you’re shooting with natural light behind your subject, the flash and a modifier like a Rogue Grid, you can get the light directly on your subject.

Clarity and Focusing Closer

When shooting macro, you want to get the image as clear as possible, with as much detail. It’s one of the reasons to use a flash In Macro photography. Not having to raise your ISO or use a slower shutter speed is also a plus. With a stabilized  flash you can stop your lens down to f16 and not have to do a long exposure. This is perfect for flowers which can move ever so slightly with the wind.

This is macro, so you want to get as close as you can. If you are using a lens like the Nikon 40mm f2.8 and if you are too close, you have to take the flash off camera because the lens well cast a shadow into your shot.  With the flash off camera, you can play with as many different angles as you want. Doing this will help you to get better images. But just don’t hover over your subject. Get down in front of your subject. Kneel, get on your stomach, don’t be afraid to get a little dirty. It will pay off. Having a unique perspective is key.

In the End

Using a flash in macro photography works. Its not the ‘end all’ of things but it’s great to try and add it to your workflow. When shooting macro, it’s great to try everything. Some say as long as you have a good light source you’re good. It’s all up to you in the end. That flash, however, definitely makes things better.

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