Macro Flash - Soft Shadows desired on Insect Photogrpahy

Which Lighting setup will you strongly recommend for macro photography?


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Numnumball

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Mar 6, 2009
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#1
Hi guys/gers,

Quite at a loss, still couldn't achieve the desired soft shadows aft few attempts at insect photography.. Was thinking of investing in a gd proper flash system..

Currently i have a D300 + 105 VR + SB900 + Manfrotto 055CX Tripod + Markins Q3 ballhead + demb flip it pro as my macro set up.

I am looking at one of the above options to put the end to my misery..
Any advise or recommendation on my dilenmma?

Tks in adv!!
 

Dream Merchant

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Jan 11, 2007
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#2
Are you using your SB on the hotshoe most of the time?

Hmm ... I'm not a macro shooter, but one thing I can tell you is that buying more flash units/different flash system is not the answer.

They are just tools.

Knowing how to use the tools and other techniques is the key to ending 'your misery'.

Hint: You can get very soft shadows or almost shdowless (flat, and actually not the most desirable) lighting even with just one flash. Look back to the basics of light, and how light behaves, and what you need to do to the light source to achieve much softer shadows while retaining detailing (shapes, texture and depth). If the foundational knowledge is not there ... :sweat:
 

catchlights

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Sep 27, 2004
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#3
Agree with DM on his last paragraph.

remember, larger size of the light source relatively to the subject, will yield softer light.

for an example, you get a harsh shadow on sunny day, and get a soft shadow on cloudy day, why? cos on sunny day, the sun is a pointed light source, and on cloudy day the cloud enlarge the size for light source.
 

Apr 15, 2008
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#4
Are you using your SB on the hotshoe most of the time?

Hmm ... I'm not a macro shooter, but one thing I can tell you is that buying more flash units/different flash system is not the answer.

They are just tools.

Agree.

I use a SB-800 with it's cap diffuser (handheld) and i think it works just fine.

Remember, the more light sources you introduce, the more bizarre the specular highlight highlights on your subject are gonna be :think:

Besides, if you want a more 'natural' effect, using just one light source is the best way to get that.

Just my 2cents :angel:
 

Numnumball

Senior Member
Mar 6, 2009
13,899
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#5
Are you using your SB on the hotshoe most of the time?

Hmm ... I'm not a macro shooter, but one thing I can tell you is that buying more flash units/different flash system is not the answer.

They are just tools.

Knowing how to use the tools and other techniques is the key to ending 'your misery'.

Hint: You can get very soft shadows or almost shdowless (flat, and actually not the most desirable) lighting even with just one flash. Look back to the basics of light, and how light behaves, and what you need to do to the light source to achieve much softer shadows while retaining detailing (shapes, texture and depth). If the foundational knowledge is not there ... :sweat:
Thks DM, this knocked some sense into me.

Btw i am using my SB900 on hotshoe.
Wondering will it be better to place it closer to the subject with a TTL cord. :think:

Yup, Did some read ups, well aware of the inverse square of light, flash power/duration etc.
Basically quite new to Macro, barely started ard 2 mths+ back.Still got tons to learn.

Tks for ur input..Cheers..
 

Numnumball

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Mar 6, 2009
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#6
Agree with DM on his last paragraph.

remember, larger size of the light source relatively to the subject, will yield softer light.

for an example, you get a harsh shadow on sunny day, and get a soft shadow on cloudy day, why? cos on sunny day, the sun is a pointed light source, and on cloudy day the cloud enlarge the size for light source.
Thks for ur advice Cathlights..
In other words, getting my flash closer to my subjects will yield more desireable lighting?
So isn't a ring flash most ideal? Correct me if i m wrong.
 

Numnumball

Senior Member
Mar 6, 2009
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#7
Agree.

I use a SB-800 with it's cap diffuser (handheld) and i think it works just fine.

Remember, the more light sources you introduce, the more bizarre the specular highlight highlights on your subject are gonna be :think:

Besides, if you want a more 'natural' effect, using just one light source is the best way to get that.

Just my 2cents :angel:
Thks for ur input.. Did u mount ur SB 800 on ur hotshoe?

If so, i had tried that method and still got harsh shadows when i lower my flash output/FEV..
 

Apr 15, 2008
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Singapore, east-ish
#8
Thks for ur input.. Did u mount ur SB 800 on ur hotshoe?

If so, i had tried that method and still got harsh shadows when i lower my flash output/FEV..
Nope, i trigger it with my built-in flash.

I hold it in my left hand and prop it against the side of my lens for extra support.

Otherwise,I just holdit and mount my camera on a tripod :)
 

catchlights

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Sep 27, 2004
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#9
Thks for ur advice Cathlights..
In other words, getting my flash closer to my subjects will yield more desireable lighting?
So isn't a ring flash most ideal? Correct me if i m wrong.
for softer lighting, bring your flash closer and make it bigger.

Daedalus Trent has offer you his solution.
 

hisokaka

New Member
Aug 15, 2008
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#10
for softer lighting, bring your flash closer and make it bigger.
are u able to elaborate on this? do u mean just physically bring the flash closer to the subject? do I need to change the zoom and output of the flash?
 

catchlights

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Sep 27, 2004
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#11
are u able to elaborate on this? do u mean just physically bring the flash closer to the subject? do I need to change the zoom and output of the flash?
some macro shooters using a (homemade or commercially available) flash bracket to bring flash closer to the lens, and using a diffuser (LS or milk container) attach on the flash.

you can see from this photo, taken from 1st AP Offical Macro Night... seem none of them using delicated macro flash. Hope this help.
Glad to meet everyone, we have a good time together tonight. Thank you to all. Appreciate your attendance. As usual need your ID, me 1st left with cap.



Some of my bad shots tonight..






Thanks for viewing..
 

Numnumball

Senior Member
Mar 6, 2009
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#12
Thanks for all the guidance and advise here. Esp to Catchlights, DM and Daedalus Trent; Just bought a Nikon SB-R1 Kit as i seriously wanted to go into macro photogrpahy. :D Will famalize myself with all things assosciated with light (apparent light size, flash duration, inverse square law of light and other factors whcih will determine my flash outcome) and hope to practice more and fully utlilize the goodness of this dedicated flash.. Cheers!
 

Dream Merchant

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Jan 11, 2007
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#13
CONGRATS on your new flash system!

It's an exposed (i.e., not specifically diffused) twin-head?

Sorry, I wasn't very clear in my first reply. It should have been "buying more flash units/different flash system is not the quick and easy answer."

BUT, as I read Catchlights' response, I realized that in any eventuality, getting the most appropriate equipment and knowing how to maximize it can make your photography experience a lot more enjoyable and rewarding. :) However, my first choice, if faced with hard-core macro nature work would be an assistant (LOL!) multi-plamps/clamps/stakes, Start off with ONE diffused head, and add on only if nothing else works, and very strategically placed scrims, flags and both broad and focused reflectors. The multi plamps/clamps/stakes would take care of almost all of the placement and holding work.

Last Hint: Even with a twin-head, you might have to improvise sometimes, because you're now dealing with TWO fairly hard light sources. Experiment with filters and diffusers if necessary, and while it's a lens-mounted option, don't be afraid to think out of the box and vary how you approach using the kit. Since I am not familiar with this Nikon speedlight, I'm sure other macro-ers using it would be able to offer more relevant advise.

HAVE FUN and post up some sample images taken with your new kit! :)
 

Last edited:

Numnumball

Senior Member
Mar 6, 2009
13,899
0
0
Central
#14
CONGRATS on your new flash system!

It's an exposed (i.e., not specifically diffused) twin-head?

Sorry, I wasn't very clear in my first reply. It should have been "buying more flash units/different flash system is not the quick and easy answer."

BUT, as I read Catchlights' response, I realized that in any eventuality, getting the most appropriate equipment and knowing how to maximize it can make your photography experience a lot more enjoyable and rewarding. :) However, my first choice, if faced with hard-core macro nature work would be an assistant (LOL!) multi-plamps/clamps/stakes, Start off with ONE diffused head, and add on only if nothing else works, and very strategically placed scrims, flags and both broad and focused reflectors. The multi plamps/clamps/stakes would take care of almost all of the placement and holding work.

Last Hint: Even with a twin-head, you might have to improvise sometimes, because you're now dealing with TWO fairly hard light sources. Experiment with filters and diffusers if necessary, and while it's a lens-mounted option, don't be afraid to think out of the box and vary how you approach using the kit. Since I am not familiar with this Nikon speedlight, I'm sure other macro-ers using it would be able to offer more relevant advise.

HAVE FUN and post up some sample images taken with your new kit! :)

Hi DM,

Thanks for your lengthy reply!! Really thrilled and excited at my new acqusition, can't wait to go outfield. Though happy at my new toy, i had to give up my Raynox for tt extra magnification (which somes handy on very tiny subjects like JS).. Got a Canon 500D close up lens, i must say after trying it out for a day, i am overwhelmed by its optical quality..i dare say its defintely as good or even better than raynox :)

Agreed with you on the above, i still have my wife, dragged her along on one or 2 macro outings and she start to whine.. lol...so getting R1 is really helpful, as everything is on the camera itelf, so no additional plamps/clamps/stakes, i can fully focus on my aubjects and figure out the best way to wotk out my lighting.. its a impressive system no doubt, really wanna to go deep into CLS to fully optimize the goodness of it.

Thanks alot for ur hint. That crossed my mind as well.. i can't jus rely on the light source, i still have to figure out based on my shooting situation to get the best diffused lighting. Will think innovatively and try mutliple approaches to get the desired flash output.
Will post images soon as i am very spurned on to shoot with my new toys!!! :)
 

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