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Lighting Basics for Macro Photography

Lighting is an important factor in all types of photography, but the issues you encounter with light in macro photography can be somewhat more challenging than in most other types of photography.

Focusing closer to your subjects causes some of the light you’re working with to fall off before it reaches the digital sensor. This can cause your images to be underexposed and requires that you adjust your camera settings to compensate for the loss of light. But apart from losing light in this manner, you might also encounter situations in which your camera casts its shadow on your subject (because of its close proximity) or the lighting in your scene fails to serve your intended message.

You can learn methods, equipment, and techniques for working with natural light, providing information on altering the quality, intensity, and direction of the sunlight, working in different weather conditions, and ensuring your colors are represented correctly based on the color temperature of the light you’re working with. Mastering the art of shooting with natural light can be very beneficial, as it ensures you’re prepared for and capable of creating beautiful macro and close-up photographs in any lighting conditions.

You typically use artificial lighting when shooting indoors, at night, or in dark, shaded areas where there isn’t sufficient light for macro photography. The tools you might bring in to add light include the following:

  • Strobes: professional quality flash lighting equipment for which you can easily alter the quality, intensity, and direction of light

  • Battery-powered flash: small, lightweight flash devices that are great for travel and nature photography situations

  • Ring flash: circular flash units that surround the lens and provide a flat, even light when your camera is extremely close to its subject

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