I am dabbling with macro photography using the 7artisans 60mm and Fuji X-T20 and struggling to both properly light my subject and manually focus.

In scenarios where you need to use flash for a shot how do you frame & focus on the subject before you have triggered the flash? Either the screen is so dark that I have no idea what Im shooting or I can turn up the ISO really high so I can see what Im shooting, but then I need to drop it down again before using the flash, by which time I've messed up my focus again!

Is there a way to "view" your subject as if you have ISO pushed to the max? Or am I approaching this in totally the wrong way?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried using a modeling lamp or other continuous light source? \$\endgroup\$
    – xiota
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 13:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you indoors or outdoors? i.e. controlled or 'uncontrolled' circumstances. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm shooting outdoors, and I haven't tried a continuous lamp - although I did think that constant would be an easier solution! \$\endgroup\$
    – PaulBarr
    Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 16:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you using a tripod? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 17:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ Turn off “exposure preview” or whatever Fuji calls it. If that is not possible you should get another camera that can turn off the exposure simulation. That way you can see a bright clear preview of your subject regardless of the lighting. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 22:13

3 Answers 3


Page 73 in the manual:

To preview exposure in the LCD monitor, select an option other than OFF for D SCREEN SETTING > PREVIEW EXP./ WB IN MANUAL MODE. Select OFF when using the flash or on other occasions on which exposure may change when the picture is taken.

So set this option to OFF. If changing ISO will affect the image significantly, you have enough light available to get a sensible framing display even if it is not representative of the exposure when the flash fails. So what?

  • \$\begingroup\$ This is the correct answer. You should see a bright preview image if you just set Preview Exposure to OFF. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 22:33

Use a flashlight (torch) to light up your subject. The strobe will usually over power the flashlight. This ends up being a circus act trying to hold the camera steady in one hand and holding a flashlight in the other. To make life easier the flash should support TTL metering. You can also opt to shoot in the day and use light modifiers which can be homemade at no or little cost (perhaps some tape and clips).

My usual technique is mounting the camera on a tripod or some stable surface (books, log, rock, table, ...), manually focus, then take the shot. A remote shutter release makes life easier. If needed, I'll use a continuous light source (work light, flashlight, overhead lights) to compose and focus. Since I shoot in manual exposure and focus, I will focus and compose in Auto mode using live view, then, switch to manual mode for the shot. Using a tripod ensures that my focus doesn't change.

As an example, the following picture is a setup for fashion shoot of a rattlesnake at night. I used a work light so I could manually focus (used live view for critical focusing on the eyes), compose, and make sure I wasn't in striking range of the snake. The work light was kept on all the time as the strobe overpowered it. You can see the baby snake (oh no! the baby shark song just came to mind) coiled up in the corner of the window sill.

snake fashion shoot

If you want to continue doing macro shooting (lots of fun), get a tripod. Save up enough to get a decent tripod (I prefer a ball-head for the tripod to camera mounting interface). The $30 cheapo tripods will quickly disappoint, frustrate, and break.

  • \$\begingroup\$ There should be no need to add light so you can see the subject when using an electronic viewfinder or rear LCD preview screen. You just need to turn off Preview Exposure. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 15, 2021 at 22:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeSowsun The OP may be in an area free of light pollution. We forget what darkness looks like these days with city light pollution. \$\endgroup\$
    – qrk
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 2:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ The OP did not mention shooting at night. Even at night most electronic viewfinders are very good at letting you view dark scenes. It is quite obvious to me the OP has a problem with shooting macro with flash where the small apertures needed with Macro cause very dark viewfinders. But, this only happens if you have exposures simulation enabled, (which is the default on MANY cameras these days.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 2:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeSowsun My bad at assuming he was shooting in darkness. \$\endgroup\$
    – qrk
    Commented Aug 16, 2021 at 18:47

Put the camera on a tripod. Frame up the subject. Focus. Take the picture.

Unfolding a tripod takes time.

But often less time than it takes to make a bunch of wrong pictures before maybe getting lucky.

With a completely manual lens, using a tripod allows focusing at the widest aperture first before stopping down for more depth of field.

A tripod also offers the potential for longer exposures that don't require flash, multiple exposures from the same spot to allow focus stacking, and multiple exposures to create high-dynamic range images.


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