Macro Lighting Advice

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
gardenersassistant Veteran Member • Posts: 7,706
Re: Macro Lighting Advice

Joe94 wrote:

stevendillonphoto wrote:

Joe94 wrote:

stevendillonphoto wrote:

Joe94 wrote:

Morning everyone,

Im after some advice, I’m look for the best lighting option for macro photography (insects, flowers etc..) for my Olympus & am trying to decide whether I’m better of getting the STF-8 Macro Twin Flash or use a single speadlight with some kind of diffusion?

many thanks,


Hope this doesn't throw too much of a monkey wrench into your plans, but there is another option. I don't use any kind of flash and never have - strictly natural light. It does complicate things in other ways though. If you're interested in seeing what kind of results you can get without flash, feel free to poke around on my site. Lots of macro flowers to see under the Galleries menu (The Beauty Within, Flora, and Naturally Abstract collections).

Hi Steven,

Not at all, I appreciate your comments and in fact it’s good to see some of the amazing images you have taken just by using natural light. It was another side to my thinking was whether it’s even worth spending £400 odd pound on a macro flash when infact you can get just as good without & hens saving money.

Following this, if I did decide to not go down the route of flash and stick with natural light, is there any other equipment or software you use or could recommend to help expand my macro photography. I currently have an Olympus OMD EM5 Mark III with a 60mm macro.

Thanks again, Joe


Glad to hear it was useful information. I know when I started I was in your same boat. I actually initially used flash (mostly because everybody said it was the only way to go). I had a couple of different units (including a nice ring flash). But I just wasn't happy with the results, and, more importantly, I found that the photographers whose work I enjoyed the most weren't using flash at all. So, I decided to try that. And, I preferred the images without flash.

As I mentioned, it brings with it a whole new set of problems, and, in many ways, makes things more difficult. A couple of things that have been staples for me: a good, solid, lightweight tripod; a device for holding your subjects (especially flowers) - I use a Plamp; a deflector, and reflector (they are used to control the light); mirror lockup (if your camera has a mirror); and DOF preview for getting the focus and depth just where you want it.

BTW, do NOT attach the plamp to your camera tripod. Connect it to something else that doesn't touch anything associated with your camera. I carry an old, cheap tripod and use it to put the Plamp on as well as holding a deflector (when needed).

Also, the right light is HUGE. Morning light is normally best as the wind is usually lowest during that time since the heat from the sun has yet to stir things up. I prefer golden hour light as it enhances the colors much more than at any other time of the morning. I'll usually be packed up and heading home by 10AM having already composed everything that I can.

The wind is going to be your worst enemy. You'll need LONG shutter times and in some cases extremely long (I've used 10 seconds and more) so wind conditions are also quite important. Asking Mother Nature to be still for that much time is a tall order so you'll need a good amount of patience as well. And with flowers it's not always the wind. Sometimes a big ol' bumble bee will come along (just when the flower has finally stopped moving) and disturb the whole scene. You might even need to reframe and check your DOF again.

Have fun. Looking forward to seeing what you create.

Thank you for this added information, much appreciated

Like Steven, I use natural light for flowers. (I use flash for insects, spiders etc, except for larger subjects like dragonflies and butterflies that I don't often see, but when I do it is usually on a bright sunny day.)

I also agree that the right light is important. However, what light is right depends on personal taste as to what sort of images you like. For my part I often shoot flowers in bright light because I like the effects I can get. I also shoot in breezy conditions (I live in a notoriously windy location), almost always hand-held, with some fairly slow shutter speeds sometimes, and I never touch the subjects (no plamp for example). As with other sorts of close-up/macro there are lots of ways of tackling it and I think it pays to experiment to see what works well for you.

Here are some bright light examples.

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