Lighting Macro Photography

The past few days I have been shooting a lot of macro images. The light has been perfect, because of a few overcast days in a row. The soft light created by the clouds is perfect for flowers because there are no harsh shadows. When you shoot flowers in bright light the shadows created often distract from the flower because they are so strong. They are especially bad if the shadows create busy patterns and shapes. If this is the case, then you should try to fill in the shadows with a flash or reflector. That way you can get a good balance of light and dark.

Chocolate Lily


I filled in the deep shadows inside the flower with a flash.

The flash made it possible to see the inside, but these shadows aren't as busy as others.

It is also important not to use too much flash. This is not so much of a problem if you are using it to fill in shadows. However, if you are using the flash as your only light source, then you need to be careful that is isn't too strong. Strong flashes create the same nasty shadows, and also looks weird because of the light's direction:



The strong flash makes this photo look fake, and unappealing to me.

If you are having problems with the flashes being too strong, then you should try turning down your flash. If it still looks unnatural you should examine your images and figure out what was the problem. With the image above, I determined that the light was too direct. So, I grabbed my tripod and took the image without the flash because the overcast light was already perfect. However, I had to be very careful because the exposure ended up being quite long for macro work. If I didn't have by tripod, which would make the longer exposure impossible, I would have tried to diffuse the flash with something (maybe my shirt?). Another thing that can held is to move the flash farther away from the flower. By having the light farther away, it will illuminate things more evenly:

Farewell-to-Spring Petals


Nice and even light.

In general the best light for shooting macro images, is when it is soft and diffused. That way, there aren't any harsh shadows distracting from the image of the flower. Shoot on cloudy days, or in deep shade to achieve this look. If you are shooting in harsh light, and want less shadows, then use a reflector or flash to fill in the dark areas. However, if the flash is your only light source beware of extra-harsh light from it. Try moving the flash farther away, diffusing it, or changing it's position. Lastly, practice and experiment on to find the best light for each flower.

-Graceson Aufderheide

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One response to “Lighting Macro Photography

  1. Greetings! Very useful advice within this post! It’s the
    little changes that make the biggest changes. Many thanks for sharing!

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Image of GracesonMy name is Graceson Aufderheide, but you have probably figured that out already. I am currently a senior in high school who photographs, teaches, and makes jewelry. I have always been creating, that is what I do.
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