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Overpower Daylight with Artificial Light for Macro Photography

Strobe and flash lighting aren’t just for the studio. You can use artificial light outdoors following the same guidelines. The main difference is that the daylight is typically much brighter outside than the available daylight indoors.

In macro and close-up photography you commonly position your lights very close to your subjects. Doing so enables you to overpower the daylight with even the weaker battery-operated flash systems. Here are some examples of situations in which you might consider using your artificial lights outdoors:

  • Thick clouds are covering the sun or your subject is in the shade, but you prefer to have contrast in your scene with directional light. Using the daylight as a fill and adding an artificial key light can provide the lighting you desire. Use a fast shutter speed to keep the daylight from competing with the intensity of your key light.

  • If the sun is affecting your subject in an unflattering way, you can overpower the daylight completely by using two artificial lights (one for the key and one for the fill light). Move them in close to your subject, and use the fastest shutter speed based on your camera’s max sync speed.

    If the daylight is still too bright to be overpowered, increase the intensity of your artificial lights, decrease your ISO settings, and use a smaller aperture. If this still is not enough to block out the sun, try attaching a neutral density filter to your lens and increasing the power of your light to compensate for the loss of light.

  • If the sun is positioned nicely and is affecting your subject in a flattering way, but you prefer to have less contrast in a scene, you can brighten the shadow areas by adding an artificial fill light. Power the flash down so it produces just enough light to eliminate some of the contrast.

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