Two light macro

As we all know, good lighting is the key to good photography. This axiom is especially true in macro. Quality lenses and technique are very important but the quality of lighting can make or break your photo.

Light has several characteristics, including color, quality, intensity and direction. All of these taken together reveal color, form, shape and texture of our subject. Frequently, we enjoy using broad, diffused light in our macro images to produce shadowless details and good color.

The image below is of a 41 mm high natsuke, or Japanese kimono button. As we can tell from the image, this carved figure is lit with a single flash from above through a 10 inch diffuser. This comparatively large light source produced a soft, shadowless illumination that reveals a lot about the subject.

However, that approach may not be the best for every subject. Back light is an excellent choice to accent the details of shape and form of many subjects. This is also quite true in macro.

In this image below, the subject is lit with a single flash with a long snoot from behind and to the left. This approach provides edge lighting that accentuates the details of the object shape. But it fails to provide front surface information.

To get the front surface details, we must add a fill from the front. The image below is of only the fill light created by another flash above and to the right of the lens axis. This flash is softened by a 10 inch diffuser, providing a quality of light that provides surface detail without unwanted reflections.

To get the most of the subject, the two flashes are combined for the final image below. While not the only method available to the macro photographer, this two light approach provides excellent information about shape, form and texture of our subject.

Nikon D2Xs, Micro Nikkor 200 mm F 4.0 macro lens, two Nikon SB-800 speedlights. Image size 0.4 X.

© Copyright 2011 Brian Loflin. All rights reserved.

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2 responses to “Two light macro

  1. Good post. Light is one of the aspects I struggle with in my macro photography.

  2. Rifqi- thanks for your comments. You are really correct. Light is most important. I feel that we need varied light- not just volumes of light- to make images that convey a lot of information. That principle is even more important when we get really close to the subject. Variable light provides more information on form and three dimensions.

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