Close range flash / Macro photography

Especially in close range photography, integrated flashes or flash attachments can cause problems by casting a shadow of the lens’s flash light (mainly on SLR cameras).

The exceptions are the cameras that have a lens that does not protrude/extend.  This is the case for some particularly compact digital cameras. Some very reasonably priced models also fall under this category that allows surprisingly high quality macro images to be captured with the built-in flash.

As well as the traditional flash attachments there are special flash units for close ups which enable shadow-free illumination. These include twin flashes and ring flashes.

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For twin flashes, two adjustable flashes are positioned either side of the lens. This prevents the lens casting a shadow. The reflectors are also adjustable. This enables you to direct the illumination. Ring flashes on the other hand have a circle shaped reflector that is placed around the lens at the same height as the front lens. This prevents the lens casting a shadow. You cannot steer the direction of light as with a twin flash. The triumph of LED technology allowed ring lights (continuous light) to establish themselves. This light source’s brightness is not as pronounced as that of a flash device but it isn’t problematic for close ups. Twin flashes, ring flashes and also ring lights are used for subjects that are difficult to access (e.g. dental photography) for close ups and macro photography.

For close up product photos a light tent may be recommendable depending on the size of the object. This is lit from the outside and casts a soft light.

Often flash devices are too bright in close range photography. Flash exposure compensation can be helpful. The flash’s brightness could potentially be muted by placing diffusing panels or filters or other half transparent objects in front of the flash reflector. Manual setting of the flash (setting mode “M”) can also be effective. The advantage is that the depth of field can be set using the diaphragm. If you only wish to set the depth of field, you can also use the aperture priority mode (A, AV). However, be aware that in this mode many cameras use a slow synchronisation and this can lead to blurring. Therefore be sure to use a tripod for close range shots because of the shallow depth of field.

The following image was lit using a ring flash. This creates a soft light, free of shadows. The reflection seen in the eye is typical for a ring flash.

Ring flash - Eye

Ring flash - Eye

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