super simple macro lighting

Pink flowerSimple Macro Lighting

You can use super simple macro lighting techniques whenever you shoot close-ups and get beautiful macro photos! Why complicate things? 

Use a single light source and place a large white reflector of any kind as close as you can to your subject. It really can be that simple. I do it all the time and I'm no Einstein.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. What's the big deal about this macro lighting setup? That's the point. It is no big deal. It's a simple technique that you can do and get great results without getting complicated.

I shot this short video to show you the exact lighting I used for the indoor macro photography setup.

This close-up photo of the popped popcorn kernel below was shot without any electrical  lights turned on or flash units employed.  It was done with light streaming in through a small window, directly to the left of my subject and about 4 feet higher than the popcorn.

This was one of my favorite images, cropped down from the original to show about half of the entire kernel of popcorn.  If you think it's pretty cool, please share it someone.

I've seen some very complicated macro photography lighting setups that involve two or three flash units. Why get so complicated? You'll get a more natural looking close-up if you use 1 main light and 1 fill light.

There are some very handy Macro photography light boxes but they aren't necessary for all of the close-up photos you take. Macro lighting boxes are used all the time by people who are selling products on websites like ebay and etsy.  

Don't get me wrong on this, they are an easy and convenient way to get attractive lighting and we all like easy.

They give generally good lighting and are a safe way to go in many macro photographic situations. They're also very affordable to buy and some of them are foldable or collapsible which is great benefit for you when you want to store them away efficiently.

Certain subjects with highly reflective surfaces like jewelry or silverware are great to photograph with macro light boxes because all of the sides of the light boxes become broad non-glaring light sources.  

For  both the popcorn photos above and below I used an affordable macro lens combination of extension tubes and a prime 85mm lens.  I used the mirror lock-up function to prevent any camera shake during the long exposures ranging from 1/4 second to a few full seconds, depending on the f-stop I chose.

Close-up photo of popcorn with a single window light and one piece of white cardboard for bounce fill

The only light modification I did was to lean a small piece of white Foamcore against a small tripod right up against the popcorn bowl.  (Watch the video)

This fills in the shadows and reduces the light ratio to a good level. White objects can be tricky to photograph.  In photography school one of the most challenging assignments in the first year photography class was to photograph cottage cheese.  OMG, that was real tough!

super simple macro lighting with one light

This final photo was shot the day before using was somewhat simple lighting set-up.  I only used one light, a 250 watt utility light.  I aimed it's broad spread of bright light at the ceiling and a very large sheet of foamcore that was just to the left to light this macro photo of the red rose.

I "cheated" a bit and used a spray bottle with water to create the water drops on the petals.

If you can use super simple macro lighting whenever possible, it makes concentrating on your composition much easier and also makes for a more enjoyable photo shoot.

Stay inspired with your photography. Shoot more macro. 

Article published by Bruce Lovelace


Bruce is the publisher of this website. He is the author of the book "Improve Your Photography Instantly."  Read more on Bruce on his Bio Page. He's been known as The Traveling Photographer ever since 1994. Read more about this website.

View some of Bruce's photos on Instagram.   Visit the Facebook Page. Watch him on YouTube.  Bruce runs photo workshops for kids and adults, and provides one-on-one photography coaching.

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