Shoot stunning macro images with flash
Lighting extreme close-up images can be difficult. Read our simple guide to adding sparkle to reversed-lens macro shots using flash
Reversed lens macro photography is a fantastic way to explore the extreme close-up world, without the expense of investing in a lens that provides greater-than-life-size magnification. A reversing ring is a simple device that allows an inverted lens to be mounted on a dSLR, making use of the filter thread on the front of the optic. When a lens with a wide-angle or standard focal length is used in this way, very close focussing distances become possible, transforming it into a powerful tool for macro photography. However the very close working distance between the lens and subject creates several challenges, especially when it comes to lighting your shot with flash. The lens itself produces a shadow, thereby preventing even flash coverage and adding a tell-tale dark gradient along the bottom of the frame. Whilst this is unsightly, it can be necessary to employ flash to lift shadows, create depth and freeze movement introduced by the wind – a common problem when working at high magnifications. Luckily there are methods of circumventing these issues; by controlling how the light from your flash hits the subject, it is possible to generate soft, even lighting, regardless of how close your camera is to what you are shooting. Here are six quick steps to follow.
Step 1: Attach your reversed lens
A useful tip is to attach your reversing ring to the lens first, rather than trying to mount the optic on a ring attached to the camera. This reduces the risk of damaging the lens or filter thread.
Step 2: Focus and calculate exposure
Since your lens is reversed you lose all automatic focusing and exposure. Focus manually using live view and switch to manual or shutter priority mode to control exposure, using your camera’s LCD as a guide.
Step 3 Adjust your aperture
You also lose electronic aperture control when reversing, so a lens with a manual aperture ring is far easier to use. Stop down and re-adjust your shutter speed or ISO if required for an accurate exposure on-screen.
Step 4: Create even lighting (on-camera flash)
If your flash is camera-mounted you can produce an off-camera effect by bouncing the light off a reflector or even a piece of white card. Hold this above your subject and at an angle while aiming your flash upwards.
Step 5: Create even lighting (off-camera flash)
For a wirelessly triggered flash, hold the light above your subject, aiming down from roughly where the sun would be. Hold a reflector or white card beneath the subject to light the bottom of the frame.
Step 6: Adjust your power
Balance your lighting by reducing your flash output (try starting at ½ power) and adjusting the distance between your reflector and subject. Use a larger or smaller reflector for softer or harder lighting respectively.