With my macro lens I can go so close that even ring flash doesn't really work, how can you light up your subject especially if it's small?

  • I find when i light up that my ability to focus on the macro as well as the micro is greatly enhanced.
    – Alaska Man
    Jul 10, 2020 at 18:23

3 Answers 3


If you're so close your ring flash doesn't bear on your subject, you're pretty well limited to side-lighting the subject. One option might be a diffusion ring attached to the ring flash. A ring of LEDs, might also do the job, if central light on a near-flat surface facing the lens isn't critical. Depending on what kind of catch light is acceptable, you might prefer to put your subject into a diffuser box, either constructed from flat light panels or lit as evenly as possible from out of field.

Another option to consider is using a smaller ring flash, or one that has an inward angle -- what's available here will likely depend on the lens you're using, and its filter ring size (or rear element diameter, if you're using a reversing setup of some kind), but I've seen (pictures of) LED rings that would fit around the rear elements of some lenses.

  • I have LED ring but its inner side is blocking the light so when I’m too close, almost the subject touches the glass, no light reaches it
    – xbmono
    Jul 12, 2020 at 10:34

One solution is a lens with a built-in light. The light doesn't need to be very powerful since it is very close to the subject.

  • Wow didn't know such a thing exist. Thanks
    – xbmono
    Jul 11, 2020 at 8:24
  • @xbmono I have one. Not very expensive, stabilized... and the rather short focal distance makes the shots more "immersive".
    – xenoid
    Jul 11, 2020 at 11:21
  • Canon EF-S 35mm f/2.8 Macro IS STM Lens It is an APS-C only lens with a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:1.
    – Michael C
    Jul 11, 2020 at 13:28

Closeup/macro buffs tend not to use ring flashes (which cause flat lighting) as much as elaborate hand-made snoot constructs. My personal insect hunter gets along with "old stock" components, namely a suitable flash reflectorDSC-R1 with Regula Variant 740-2 MFD and reflector attachment and a number of (achromat) closeup dioptres. You still may want to have some white cardboard to hold behind your subjects lest the background may become too dark:Hoverfly and aphid

However, I recommend that you do a web search for people who may be considered macro giants: those really usually have quite more elaborate self-made light guides that will typically provide reasonable shading as well as background illumination, and those will usually provide better visual depth impression than a ring flash would.

The most relevant advantage of a ring flash is that it will rarely fail to get the light where the view is. For dental photography (or insects crawling into narrow blossoms) that can be important. For the focusing distances you indicated, there is not much of a chance for a hollow to interfere with the view, though.

  • That's interesting, is that a mirror or something that reflects the flashlight to the subject?
    – xbmono
    Jul 11, 2020 at 8:18
  • It's a silvery matte surface that is pretty reflective but not really mirroring. A real mirror would not change anything but the direction of the light cone; this contraption creates lighting good for f=20mm when the direct light is just good for f=35mm. At these distances, the resulting loss of guide number is not an issue. I think most hand-made light guides just use white paper/cardboard which loses even more light but diffuses more.
    – user92986
    Jul 11, 2020 at 9:09

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