Accessorize Your Lights for Macro Photography - dummies

Accessorize Your Lights for Macro Photography

By Thomas Clark

Accessories are attachments that fix to the front of the light, altering the size, shape, and/or direction of the light source. They’re useful for macro and close-up photography a great option for changing the quality of the light you get from a strobe or battery-operated flash.

Soft box

The most commonly used accessory for creating a larger surface for your lights is the soft box. This attachment forms an enclosure around your flash or strobe; it has reflective side and back walls and a large diffusing surface at the front of the light.

Soft boxes come in varying sizes so they can be used effectively with subjects of many sizes. In macro and close-up photography, a small or medium size soft box probably suits your needs just fine.

A soft box increases the surface area of your light and diffuses the direction of the light. You end up with a softer light that tends to wrap around the edges of a subject, producing shadows with graduated edges. The closer you position a soft box to your subject, the softer the light will be.

Ring flash

A ring flash provides a light source that surrounds the lens of your camera, producing an even light that appears to have no specific direction. In macro and close-up photography, your built-in, on-camera flash is typically useless because it tends to light your scene unevenly and cast unflattering shadows. A ring flash works well to illuminate your scene evenly at close distances when your on-camera flash can’t.

In this photo, the subject is lit with a flat, front light from the ring flash. Your camera brand of choice most likely offers ring flashes that are designed to work with your camera. In macro and close-up photography, use the small units that are designed for shooting in close, rather than the larger ring flash units that are used in fashion photography.


100mm, 1/160, f/14, 500

If you have a battery-operated flash for you camera already and don’t wish to purchase a separate ring flash, look into getting a ring light adapter for your flash. This accessory connects to the flash as it sits on top of your camera and redirects the light to a ring that’s fixed around your lens. Be sure to research what’s available and compatible with your specific camera and flash.

Macro flash bracket

A macro flash bracket enables you to position one or two flashes to the side of your camera and very close to your subject. You mount your camera to the center of the bracket and fix the lights to each arm.

You can adjust the arms to tweak the exact position of each light. This comes in handy for creating side light patterns in your scenes and for the convenience of having your lights move when your camera moves.