cheap diffuser for macro photography

Rather than pay a lot to modify your close-up lighting, how about going with a cheap diffuser for macro photography? I've researched quite a few elaborate macro lighting diffusers and some of them are really nice. I still think many of them are overkill both in their size and in their price.

Swedish Macro Light DiffuserNot so cheap macro lighting diffuser

When you are working your digital photography magic in the close-up world you just don't need big and expensive accessories to adjust and perfect the light. I recently came across an ad for some diffusing material and thought it would be good to share my thoughts about diffusing light when you're shooting macro photos. 

I do confess that there have been times when I've used electronic flash to light some of my macro photos, but usually it's been in a situation where the level of light is really low, as in nighttime and indoor photography. Diffusing light when using a flash unit is very popular for photographing insects.

when is a cheap diffuser for macro photography a good idea

  • When Mr. Sunshine is blasting his harsh rays on your subject it can often be a good idea to scatter and diffuse the light to make your subject more appealing.  When you need to soften the light and reduce the harshness of the shadows you can use a sheet of diffusing material in between your subject and the sun.
  • The light from your flash is very harsh. Using direct flash on a close-up subject will give you harsh shadows and annoying bright highlights. 

comparison of diffused and harsh macro photography lighting

Diffused macro lightingOverhead Diffused Lighting

Direct harsh overhead light arthropodOverhead Direct Lighting

first option for a cheap diffuser

It's really quite easy to make your own diffuser, either by buying some diffusion material or by using something you already have lying around in your home. 

Diffusion materials come in a wide variety and you really don;t need much to make a big enough diffuser for macro photography.

You can cut this to any shape you need any tape it to a small picture frame for support.

Rosco Cinegel Tough White Diffusion, 20 x 24 inches Sheet of Light Diffusing Material

There are a few different directions to go in.  Some diffusers are intended to work with light sources such as specific models electronic strobes and some are more generic in nature.

Diffusing Flashgun LightboxDiffusing Box for Flashgun

If you need the firepower of a flash gun, due to a low lighting situation, you can soften the light from a standard hot shoe flash by purchasing a softbox made specifically for your flashgun.

Fold-able diffusion accessories are convenient to carry and usually come in circular, oval, or triangular designs.  The photo below is of a diffusion panel that is 32 inches.

diffuser for macro photographersHandheld diffuser
for macro photographers

These types of hand-held diffusers aren not really intended for for macro photographers because of their size.

There may be  some times when you'll want to diffuse the light on the subject as well as on the background and you'll appreciate the large size.

I use very large versions of these with outdoor portraits.

When I was a newby photographer, some photographers would use a pair of women's stockings as a cheap diffuser for macro photography. Boy, have times changed!

There are also macro lighting boxes that you can assemble for inside studio close-up work,  These are great for photographing small objects for sale by eBay sellers like jewelry. coins and other small collectibles. Have a blast with your macro photography lighting. Keep it fun!

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Macro Lighting Box