Q and A: What kind of lighting should I use for macro nature photography?


I have started macro nature photography using a new Nikon 85 mm f/3.5G VR Macro lens on my Nikon D90 camera. What is best in terms of lighting? Should I use a shoe-mounted flash unit with a downward tilt, or a ring flash, or a bracket with two arms, each holding a separate flash unit? H. H.


In my experience, on-camera flash is not suitable for extreme close-up photography. The flash may not be able to light the bottom part of the subject in extreme close-focus image making. That’s because it does not allow for an adequate downward tilt and the lens barrel may block some of the light. If you do want to use a conventional flash unit, move it off-camera using a TTL extension cable or Wireless Off Camera Flash (if your camera supports the latter.) For softer lighting add a large diffuser accessory such as the Lumiquest Softbox III. (See this item at B&H ; See this item at Amazon Lumiquest The Softbox III – Lumiquest LQ-119)

The latest macro ring lights – such as the Metz 15 MS-1 that I recently tested – are very versatile and easy to use. They typically consist of a circular mechanism that’s mounted on the front of a macro lens with an adapter ring. The “ring” – with two individual flash tubes – can be rotated so you can place the two light sources at the desired position. The Metz kit (and some others) also includes a diffuser accessory that’s useful in extremely close focus work. (See the Metz unit at B&H; see this item at Amazon Metz MZ 15110 Digital Macro Slave (Black)) (more…)

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Balancing flash with ambient light outdoors

Trying to balance your flash with bright sunlight for an outdoor portrait scares the pants off people. It’s one of those things that seems so hard to do, especially if you are using off-camera flash without TTL. In that case, it’s all math and numbers and my head starts to hurt just thinking about it. Fortunately, it’s not really that difficult to do once you learn a few tricks.

tampa portrait photographer 1


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High-Speed Sync

What is it? High-speed sync is your flash and camera working in perfect harmony at shutter speeds above 1/250 sec (for most cameras). I’ve heard of high-speed sync but never saw it in action until I met Joe McNally. Watching him give a demonstration really opened my eyes to the potential. If you are interested in the technical aspects of how it works, I would recommend the numerous articles that explain all the technical jargon. In doing my research for this article I came across a lot of great information explaining how a flash works and why it’s supposed to sync with a camera at 1/250 and flash duration and why the planets are aligned the way they are and why the earth is warming, you get the idea.

I’m not a technical guy; so I won’t try to bore you with technical speak. But to put it in my simplistic numnuts terminology it works like this. (more…)

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Color balance

or, learning to see like your camera, part 2

Let’s start by saying that color is a science. It’s a big science. It’s so big that there are entire institutes full of people so smart it makes my head hurt, all studying color. So I think it’s safe to say we’ll not be comprehensive here. We will cover the basics of color balance and differential color temperatures, as they pertain to shooting. Color management on the back end, calibrations, color profiles are for another time.


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