Sunday, July 12, 2009

Closeup with Flash

If you read my last post, you'll remember I mentioned that I wanted to try macro with a flash strobe. Well tonight I did just that!

In order to do this, you'll need a flash unit -- I used a Sigma 500 DG Super -- and something to diffuse the light coming out of your flash. I used a Gary Fong LightSphere Cloud. The LightSphere gives you the added benefit of extending the front of the flash beyond the front of your lens, minimizing shadows cast by the lens itself. Plus it spreads light in all directions, so you can be pretty sure your subject will be lit. If you click on the link above, you will be taken to what appears to be a cheesy infomercial website... but his products more or less do what he says they do, even if his marketing sucks. The LightSphere Cloud worked REALLY well for this study.

What you will get is beautiful light quality. It makes sense if you think about it, as the light source is massive compared to the subject -- bugs, flowers,or whatever it is you like to shoot up close. If you've studied lighting, you'll know that the apparent size of the light relative to your subject is very important. Bigger means softer, wrap around light that reveals form.

The other benefit I got was that I could shoot handheld and use a low ISO sensitivity -- no more noise, and the subject is nice and sharp. I could also stop down to f/16, getting good depth of field for macro photography.

Here are a few examples. As always, click these for larger sizes and more from the study.

Notice the soft shadowing and detail in the petals.

The light from the flash creates great separation from the background, as you can see how the flowers near the top get darker and seem to recede.

Another great example of how the subject is nicely separated from the background.

Just look at the snappy colour and depth of field!

I went bug hunting but I didn't find too many, so I had to settle for florals. But I'm very happy with the results, and I can't wait to try this technique on a little six-legged rascal.


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