The Benefits of Using Artificial Light in Close-Up Photography - dummies

The Benefits of Using Artificial Light in Close-Up Photography

By Thomas Clark

Photographers cannot control natural light. If you rely on the natural light to serve a specific purpose or to create a specific look in your close-up or macro photography, there’s always a possibility you’ll be let down.

Luckily, there are artificial light sources, such as strobes and battery-powered flash. Artificial lights can be relied on to create a series of images with a consistent look, and their intensity levels can easily be controlled, enabling you to choose the exposure settings that work best for your desired composition.

Producing images with a consistent look

Using multiple artificial light sources offers total control of your lighting and is ideal for producing consistent imagery. Unlike natural light, which produces shifts in color and intensity every time the sun goes behind a cloud, or as it moves throughout the sky, artificial lights produce the same color and intensity of light over and over again.

If for example you wish to photograph numerous items for a catalog and prefer the images to maintain uniformity, using artificial light sources helps to produce perfectly consistent color and contrast qualities in your images.

Keeping the same lighting setup throughout the duration of your shoot means that you don’t have to worry about coming across inconsistencies between images after the shoot is completed. Professional studio photographers for products and jewelry often practice this method.

Controlling depth of field and length of exposure

When photographing with strobes or battery-operated flash units, you have total control over which exposure settings you use for your shots. Simply set the camera to your preferred exposure settings and adjust the power and distance of your lights accordingly.

Smaller apertures (which are represented by a higher f/stop number and produce a greater depth of field) and faster shutter speeds require higher intensities of light. Larger apertures (which are represented by a lower f/stop number and produce a more shallow depth of field) and slower shutter speeds may require lower intensities of light.

Because you can control the intensity of light produced by your strobes and flashes, they’re ideal for enabling you to control exactly how much depth of field you have in an image and for maximizing the speed of your shutter to avoid motion blur from a shaky camera or a moving subject.

If you use the modeling light (a continuous light that operates between shots to give a sense of how the strobe affects your scene and to aid with focusing) on your strobe in conjunction with a slow shutter speed, then the modeling light might affect your exposure. This can cause issues with color or can cause your subject to appear blurry if you’re handholding the camera.

Some photographers use a slow shutter speed with the combination of the strobe and modeling light to achieve creative effects. For instance, you can capture a still image of your subject when the strobe pops and leave the shutter open while the modeling light reveals the motion of the subject.