Macro photography opens entirely new worlds for us to view. And luckily, the best thing about macro is that any subject, when enlarged several hundred times, becomes infinitely more interesting to view. With an entry level macro lens costing only a few hundred dollars, more and more people venture into it.

However, one of the harder aspects of learning macro is how to light it. High apertures are typically used to get good sharpness and depth of field to show tiny details, and to combat the razor-thin DOF. Luckily, if you're into Strobist type photography, all you need is the most basic setup to get started. Keep reading after the jump.

While it helps to have a ringflash or real macro light for doing serious macro work, your off camera flash will do just fine as well. In this setup, a single 430ex flash attached to a (now broken and in service) magic arm for easy positioning. When shooting macro, your light source can be as close as just 4 or 5 inches away from the subject. A modifier is generally a good idea, but if your subject is small enough, its not entirely necessary.


The next thing that I've found to be necessary is bounce cards, whether a sheet of foam core or an empty white cardboard box, a reflective surface opposite your light effectively doubles your coverage. Positioning this carefully will also take care of catchlights in reflective surfaces. This is a basic setup-one flash, one bounce, camera centered in between. But as uncomplicated as it is, it produces very and controllable results that anyone can do in minimal space.


This picture of my watch shows how you can simply light even highly reflective objects easily. You can see the direction of the light coming from the top right. The metal bezel is hardly lit, but the face is evenly lit, with a bit of shadow at the top creating a very dramatic product shot. Moving in more bounce cards would have more evenly lit the entire watch, or even better, a second light directly opposite the main light would have created symmetry from side to side. Such a small setup is easy to manipulate one light at a time.


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