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Ring Flash For Macro Photography

A ring flash can be useful for macro photography. Macro photography takes place at such close distances to the subject that a traditional Speedlight flash may be too high to light your subject. You may be able to use a reflector to bounce light from the Speedlight onto your subject. However, that introduces complexity into your setup that you might not want. Macro photography many times involves insects that are notoriously skittish as you get close. These are the times I will use a ring flash for macro photography.

What is a ring flash?

This type of flash is a lighting setup that attaches to the front of your lens by way of an adapter. The adapter attaches to your lens by way of the filter threads on the front of your lens. The flash I purchased comes with 7 sizes of adapters to fit most standard lenses. As with all equipment used for this site, the cost is substantially less than a name brand flash, yet still does a reasonable job for the intended purpose. The flash I am using here is available on Amazon for $32.99. The useful thing about this ring flash is it also has a light setting which allows you to turn on all the LEDs as continuous lighting. This can be useful when trying to fine focus on an object that is really close due to the very thin focal plane with macro photography.

How do you use a ring flash?

The first step is to attach the proper size adapter to the lens by screwing the adapter on the front of the lens as you would with any other filter. Once attached, the ring flash is placed over the adapter while depressing two buttons on the ring flash. Once you have the flash in place you release the buttons and check that the ring flash is securely attached. The control unit is then mounted on the hot-shoe adapter. The control unit uses 4 AA batteries and powers the flash. The flash has 7 power settings and these are also used when using as a ring light. I mostly use the flash as a ring light. As I said it helps with focusing when using small aperture settings at such close distances. Since the light is on the same plane as the lens, the light is more even and less apt to cause shadows. Because the light is close to the subject it also produces a softer light, similar to what you would get when using a Speedlight with a softbox.

What are some creative ways to use this flash?

Besides being able to cast a soft light on subjects when doing macro photography, you can get some interesting looks when photographing reflective objects. A ring flash gives an interesting round catch light in the eyes when doing portrait photography. So what kinds of interesting effects can you get when using a ring flash for macro photography. In the two photos below you can see the reflections the ring flash makes when photographing water droplets. Depending on the angle you are shooting from and the shape and size of the water droplet, there are endless possibilities to the effects you can achieve.

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If you want to try out macro photography try purchasing a ring flash to light your subjects. The great thing about this type of flash for macro photography is that it’s light so you can keep it in your camera bag and have it with you if you have an opportunity to shoot something tiny. You can even attach it to your camera and have it ready when you head out on a nature walk. The only warning here is if you have a wide-angle lens with the flash attached you may find the flash shows as a vignette in wide-angle photos. With a zoom lens, you can do a slight zoom to prevent this from happening. Test your lens after attaching the ring flash and see if this poses a problem for you. All in all the ring flash is a good way to get soft light onto a small object to shoot macro images.

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Check out more great photography tips on our Photography Tips & Tricks page.