Photographing Small Animate Subjects

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?
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
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?
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
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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?
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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.
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