Photographing Small Animate Subjects By Ken Timm Why use flash? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. To stop motion; To control light; To increase Depth-of-Field; To increase sharpness and color; Mobility (try getting into position with a tripod while photographing close-ups of butterflies). Why use a flash bracket? To avoid lens shadow and get light on the subject when working close; Macro photography often requires manual focus so you need 3 hands to hold flash off-camera. One, Two, or Ring-Flash? Ring-flash generally creates “flat” lighting, produces “donut” reflections and is expensive; George Lepp recommends (and sells) two-flash brackets; John Shaw recommends one, saying it creates more sharpness, doesn’t get a “double-sun” effect and is less costly. Why not use a commercially available bracket? Those that attach on the lens can cause lens-mount problems and they’re costly; Others, generally made for wedding photography are often heavy and bulky; Many are quite versatile but will cost much more than this home-made type. What tools and materials are needed to make one? A clamp or vise helps to hold the metal if you’re cutting, drilling or bending; A hack-saw, drill with ¼” metal bit, and small metal file to smooth edges after cutting. Anodized strap aluminum ⅛” x 1” x 20” (or two 10” lengths); Four ¼” x 20 x ½” machine bolts plus two matching wing-nuts. Optional: 4” piece of foam pipe insulation; quick-release plates for camera-to-bracket; and very small ball-head unit (highly recommended!) to attach under the flash. *** You also will need an off-camera flash cord and possibly the connecting shoe. OTHER: Flash brackets are also used to avoid eye-shine (or red-eye). Here is the formula to avoid it: Flashhead To lens center 12 7 4 2 Subject distance, feet 20* 11 8 4 *The home-made bracket norm MAKE YOUR OWN MACRO FLASH BRACKET for less than $10.00! Step One - From a piece of anodized strap-aluminum ⅛” x 1” x ?” cut 2 pieces 10” long: Step Two - Drill ¼” holes as follows: TOP right, 1” from end; BOTTOM right, 1½” from end; then drill 2 sets of aligned holes, ½” and 2” from the opposite end: Step Three - Bend each piece 5½” from the end where the camera/flash will be attached: Step Four - Assemble, using (4) ¼” x 20 x ½ machine bolts and (2) matching wing nuts: OPTIONS: Use 1” x 4” foam pipe insulation over wing nuts for comfort; use quickrelease shoe for camera; use a small flash; use a very small ball-head under flash to give flexibility; undo the top bolt to easily fold the unit to half-size; and use a 30 - 45 flash-to-subject angle. Experiment with exposures (if flash exposure is too close to natural light you may get ghost images). No need for a soft-box with macro. See John Shaw’s Close-ups in Nature pp. 90-93 or Nature Photographers Complete Guide pp.112-114 for a more sophisticated homemade flash bracket.