Using Flash in Closeups


When using the built-in flash for macro close-up images, the flash may not fully illuminate the subject because of its position. Be sure to take a test shot.

The Macro Ring Lite MR-HEX

Flash was used to freeze this small green stinkbug.

The Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX has two separate flash heads that can be swiveled around the lens and aimed separately.

There are two important reasons to use flash in tabletop photography. With flash, you can use smaller apertures for greater depth of field, and extremely short bursts of light at close distances prevent camera or subject movement from causing blur. Using electronic flash with predictable results takes a little effort and you may need to practice and experiment.

Direct on-camera flash doesn't give a picture the feeling of texture and depth that you can get from side-lighting. If you use an external flash (page 99), you can bounce the flash to illuminate the subject from an angle for a better lighting effect.

A special kind of flash is the ring flash. These units fit around the lens and fire a circle of light on the subject. They are ideal for shadowless close-up photography such as that used in medical, dental, and nature photography. Because ring flash is so flat (shadowless), they allow you to fire just one side of the ring or the other so the flash casts shadows that show surface modeling in the subject.

Canon's Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX provides you with full E-TTL flash capability when used with the Digital Rebel. With a Guide Number of 46 (ISO 100/ft.), the MR-14EX mounts directly to Canon EF Macro lenses. It offers flash exposure lock, FP high-speed sync, an a number of other features. The flash has two flash tubes that can be used together or independently. When both flashes are fired in E-TTL and used together, lighting ratios can be set in one-half stop increments up to +/- 3 stops. Lighting ratios can also be controlled between the left and right tubes, even when the flash is placed in its manual mode, and you can select variable power settings over a 7-stop range down to 1/64th power.

The Macro Ring Lite is also equipped with twin focusing lamps and a set of 7 Custom Functions that allow you to modify flash operation for specific shooting conditions. The MR-14EX requires 4 AA-size batteries and is equipped with a socket for optional external power supplies such as the Canon Compact Battery Pack CP-E2 to reduce recycling time and increase the number of flashes per set of batteries.

The Macro Twin Lite, designed for serious close-up, nature, and macro photography, gives a directional quality of light, rather than the flat light character of the ring flash. Two separate flash heads can be swiveled around the lens, can be aimed separately, and even removed from their holder and mounted off-camera. Like the MR-14EX, the new Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX is fully E-TTL compatible with all EOS bodies, including digital SLRs, and even allows Wireless E-TTL flash control with one or more 550EX and/or 420EX "slave units." It also provides easy ratio control of each flash head's output, over a six-stop range.

The Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX has two separate flash heads that can be swiveled around the lens and aimed separately.

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