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Combine Artificial and Natural Light for Macro Photography

Available, natural light (like that coming in from a window) can sometimes be very dim and require large apertures and slow shutter speeds to capture a correct exposure. This combination causes images to have a shallow depth of field, and slow shutter speeds often lead to motion blur.

A well-lit studio with large windows or skylights can provide enough natural light to eliminate your need for an artificial fill light. Combining the natural, ambient light (as a fill) with an artificial light source (as your key light) can provide beautiful results. This combination is referred to as a one-light setup.

Cutting out some of the lighting equipment on your set can simplify shooting in some macro and close-up situations. Doing so means you can get your camera in close to the subject and more easily make changes to your scene (such as removing dust with a small brush, adjusting the position of elements in a scene, or replacing one subject with another).

Using available, natural light to fill your shadows in a studio shoot is a good choice in the following situations:

  • Consistency in your images is not a major concern: As the sun changes by rising, setting, or passing through clouds, the color and intensity of your fill light changes with it. Be prepared to adjust your exposure settings to compensate for these changes.

  • You don’t have to worry about motion blur: If your camera is on a tripod, you can capture sharp images with slower shutter speeds — as long as your subject isn’t moving. Consider using a cable release or your camera’s self-timer to reduce camera shake during your exposure.

  • You want a shallow depth of field: To create an image with a shallow depth of field, you can open your aperture very wide. Doing so lets in more light during your exposure, so you shouldn’t have any worries about the intensity of the natural light.

  • You’re short on light sources: If you have access to only one artificial light source, then natural light may be your only option for filling in shadows.

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