Lighting Tips for Macro Photography

Well,  I have been out of the loop.  If you have read my other blog you would know that I had surgery late January and I’m now trying to “catch-up”, so I apologize for the delay of this post.  I hope you all have been having fun playing with Macro Photography!

Today I would like to talk about some other alternative lighting techniques that work well with macro photography.

So let’s get started…

One of my favorite tools is the flashlight, yep!  They are great for Macro work.  There are so many fun flashlights out there for you to choose from. I personally use Streamlights but if you feel that they are too expensive try Maglites, see below: the mini is wonderful for macro work, click on the photo for a better look.

mag lights

Remember, if you’re photographing in RAW format you can manipulate the white balance and change the color of your picture. If you want to have your photo true to life then so be it, or if you’re looking for a more dramatic look then play with your white balance. For more technical info on color temperature click here. I found this wonderful article discussing light & color in photography on that you can also read. I highly recommend that you do read these articles because it will help you understand the tech side of lighting.

The photographs below were shot with a small Streamlight.


With the photograph above I am holding the flashlight above and to the right of my camera. Look at your camera’s exposure level the first time you use your flashlight and adjust the f-stop & shutter speed to achieve the correct exposure.  You may need to play with the exposure levels a bit depending on how close/intense the light is to the subject. On the picture below I focused the light high above the flower to give it a softer look and to have the stem pop right were it meets the flower, my focal point.  These flower images haven’t been totally post processed.  I just want to show you how the flashlight hits them.


Another fun thing to shoot is water drops…

I found a wonderful article for you to read up on before you start your macro mode on water drops, just click here to read. You will need your flash and either continuous lights or strobes for this. My photographer friend said that you can try this outside with a reflector under your glass tank and a white cardboard behind the tank to achieve a good exposure, but I was in my studio so I used my flash and two hot lights, at least that’s what the lights used to be called before fluorescent light bulbs were around, lol! Ok I used continuous lighting.  First let’s talk about continuous lighting. has information on this.

The kit below is an awesome set! It’s small for macro and all ready for you to work on. The Plexiglas can add some creativity to your shots, you have an instant backdrop and you can also set your lights under table to diffuse the light for more fun creative shots. You can purchase this kit at B & H or you can purchase the equipment individually, if you don’t have the money now for a kit.

And if you like strobes…check out this kit:

To make the picture below, I used my continuous lights on each side of the water shot and used my flash above the drop with a ratio of 3:1. Chuck McKern has a great article, “Understanding Lighting Ratios” if you want more detailed info on ratios. I also suggest you read your manual that you received when you purchased your flash so you can play with the various ratios. Tooooo much fun playing with water!!

water drop with 3 lights

Water shot: F3.5 @ 1/250

I would like you to read this article by Urs Recher, posted on Digital Photo Pro on Light Lessons, focus on Image 6. Just remember the more research you do on lighting techniques, the better you will understand how to light your subject. Another excellent book on lighting is by Robert Morrissey, “Master Lighting Guide”, check it out at Amazon.

Today, I talked about my favorite light tool – the flashlight.  Play with them, you’ll have so much fun!! Below is another shot from a flashlight that I like.  Adding light just where I wanted gave this image a soft feel to it. This image was processed in Photoshop with layers, etc…but I’m sure you get what I’m saying and hope this inspires you to use a variety of lighting techniques to play with!




16 Comments on “Lighting Tips for Macro Photography”

  1. Janice, I too use a small Streamlight Stylus for my light painting. Your flower shots are pure art…amazingly beautiful!!

  2. lighthouse75 says:

    As a photographer whose usual work doesn’t justify investing in lighting gear, I really appreciate your tips about flashlights! Thanks very much indeed.

  3. lindaolsen says:

    I used a small video light sometimes in my macro. Your tips are great. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I just got a macro lens and took some amazing photography of lichen and moss on a hike. Some of the pics didn’t come out do to lighting, but I’d had a small flashlight I hadn’t even thought to use. Brilliant!

  5. lindaolsen says:

    Love your work too Janice!! What lens did you use for the macro?

  6. benn8 says:

    Your macro images are inspiring.

    What model of Streamlights do you use? Also, I was wondering if you could share what F-stop your use to achieve the wonderful depth of field. Thanks.

    • Hi Benn8. The streamlight I used for these images was the Stinger Series. These are my favorite flashlights, you can adjust the light stream and they are easy to work with. Here is a link for you to check out: I shot this in my studio with ISO 500 F22@ 1/15 because I darkened the studio so I could stream light were I wanted it on the flower. If I wanted more in focus I would have shot several images and stacked them. 🙂 I love talking shop! Thanks to the comment 🙂 Cheers!

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