Lighting Equipment for Macro and Close-Up Photography - dummies

Lighting Equipment for Macro and Close-Up Photography

By Thomas Clark

From a technical standpoint, macro and close-up photography can be more difficult to master than other styles of photography. Lighting can be an obstacle that is much easier to deal with when you’re equipped with the proper lighting equipment for the job.


Your subject may need to be propped up in a specific way, some obstructing leaves may need to be held out of the way during your exposure, a flash may need to be positioned to a particular side of your subject, and you may want to fill in some shadows with a reflector. Here is a list of lighting equipment that is extremely useful:

  • Strobe lights are the industry standard for studio photography. Because strobes have to be attached to heavy power packs that require a generator when used in the field, photographers rarely use them outside of the studio for macro and close-up purposes.

  • Mono-lights are similar to strobe, but they don’t need to be attached to a power pack in order to work. When indoors you can simply plug them into the wall, but when in the field you need a portable power source. Mono-lights are easier to travel with than strobes but aren’t as convenient as battery-powered flashes.

  • Battery-powered flashes are what most macro and close-up photographers use to light subjects in the field. They are compact and don’t require a separate power source to operate.

  • Flash diffusers enable you to change the quality of light provided by your battery-powered flashes.

  • Flashlights are effective for macro and close-up photography because of the small nature of your subjects.

  • Reflectors redirect sunlight into your scene and can be purchased at a photo supply store or made by using a white piece of foam core, a mirror, or any shiny, reflective surface.

  • Black cards or flags (black pieces of foam core) take away light from a subject. If you wish to create a shadow in a flat lighting scenario, position the black card on one side of the subject in order to take light away from that side and make it darker. You can also use these to block direct light from your scene.

  • Colored gels change the color of light produced by your strobes, mono-lights, or flashes.

  • A scrim can diffuse or lessen the intensity of direct sunlight on your subject.