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Home > Gardens | CANBR > Photo collections > Photography techniques > Macro flash

Photographing Australian Plants

Flash — some thoughts for flower photography

Using natural light or flash

Melaleuca armillaris
Melaleuca armilaris, overcast lighting (click to enlarge)
Natural light, either sun or diffuse (as above) gives a more natural look.
Often there is less depth-of-field because a larger apperture is used.
Melaleuca armilaris
Melaleuca armillaris, flash lighting, (click to enlarge)
Flash lighting allows a very small apperture to be used, this results in greater depth-of-field, giving the photo a 'sharper' though less natural look.
Light coloured flowers stand out against the darker background.
(this particular flash set-up is explained here)

Pros and cons for using flash or natural light for flower photography

Bright sunshine

  • more natural to the eye, often vibrant
  • can use high shutter-speed,
    small apperture
    good depth-of-field
  • colours appear very natural
  • shadows often get in the way
  • background can often be very contrasty
  • can't control when the sun is out


Overcast or cloudy

  • natural to the eye, often dull
  • usually slower shutter-speed,
    larger apperture
    less depth-of-field
  • colours often appear dull
  • shadows not such a problem
  • background usually looks natural
  • can't control the weather conditions

Flash lighting

  • not very natural look
  • high shutter-speed: 1/250 sec,
    small apperture,
    very good depth-of-field
  • colours can look un-natural
  • usually no awkward shadows
  • background dark to black
  • always have control of lighting

Types of flash (or LED ring-lights)

Sunpak ringflash
A genuine 'ring-flash' with the strobe-light in a circle around the lens, this one is produced by SunPak.
Nikon ringflash
The Nikon 'ring-flash' is actually two strobe-lights, one on each side of the lens.
home-made flash
This is a home-made macro flash system, diffusing the light from the camera's built-in strobe, reducing its intensity for close-up work and avoiding the shadow of the lens for extreme close-ups.
(see here for more information)

Olympus Tough flash  Olympus Tough with flash
The system above is not actually a 'flash', the plastic unit on the left clips on to the front of the Olympus Tough camera and redirects the light from the camera's built-in LED light or flash via optical-cables to provide an illuminated ring around the lens. It takes very close up images and also works underwater.

Nikon LED ring-light The ring-light on the left consists of 8 LED lights configured in a ring around the camera lens. While is was made for the Nikon Coolpix range of small cameras, it can be adapted for others. Indeed it is quite easy to attach it to a mobile phone camera or an iPad to get light on the subject without the shadow of the iPad.

ring light

Oh! Wow. Ring Light

The Oh! Wow. Ring Light (left) is a ring flash and constant light that fits a Canon or Nikon DSLR.

Simply plug it into your hot shoe and pop it onto the front of your lens for even lighting with 3 brightness options.
Attaches to your hot shoe to flash in sync with your shutter.
Constant mode is great for shooting evenly lit videos.
Powered by 4 AA batteries, so you can use it off camera .

At the time of original writing (Sept. 2014) this product had only been seen as an advertisement on the Photojojo website with a selling price of $99. The website no longer appears online as of August 2021 but a review of the light in PCMag Australia on 9 April 2014 indicates that the Gisteq Flashmate LED RingFlash is the same product.



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