With very high magnification (2X - 5X) it has been troublesome to light the subjects since the lens shadow often gets into the photo. If it does not, then the subjects end up poorly lit or backlit.

So what are good ways to light macro subjects with off-camera lights?

There are obviously on-camera (specifically on-lens) solutions but they are expensive, unflattering and inflexible. What I am looking for it an off-camera solution that is easy to adjust precisely but illuminates enough to be able to shoot at small apertures (but not beyond the diffraction limit) and low ISO.


With macro photography you're in luck because you can use just about anything. All you have to do is exploit the inverse square law. A desk lamp might be relatively dim at 1 meter, but at 10cm it's 100x brighter! Also the softness of a light depends on its relative size - here the small size of your subject helps you out again and your desk lamp becomes a giant octobox.

Continuous listing makes it easy to see what you're doing and easy to focus. You can use just about any off camera flash too the key thing is that your lights are poseable and you can get them in close. You can't go far wrong with an anglepoise lamp to start with. If you need more power strokes are the way to go, but get a stand with a boom arm so you can get above your subject.

  • Actually, desk-lamps are something I was using but the flicker makes it gives odd results and makes it difficult for the camera to meter. Would would give the same convenience but more consistent illumination? – Itai Mar 17 '12 at 14:13
  • Try using a longer exposure, longer than 1/30s perhaps. – James Youngman Mar 17 '12 at 16:30
  • @James - My exposures for macro are generally quite long (1-30s) due to my inability to illuminate the subjects properly, hence this question :) – Itai Mar 18 '12 at 1:23

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