Home Macro Diaries Attempting a macro shot using natural light

Attempting a macro shot using natural light

by Güray Dere

At the time of writing this article, I had been following natural light, flashless shots with pleasure for a long time. I hadn’t tried it myself yet because I was a bit lazy. Of course, the problem I had with the tripod connection also played a role in this. Since I couldn’t find the right screw to mount my Newport on the tripod, I ended up changing the Newport model.

A dead wasp I found in the garden – (Vespa crabro – European Hornet) gave me my first opportunity. Being a rather large species, hornets are not suitable for magnification of 1:1 or more. Lower magnifications are needed to frame its whole body, which is why I chose the Tamron 90mm lens.

Compared to the honeybee, the hornet is a giant

Since there will be no artificial lighting, I started with a very simple gear. I set up the equipment to achieve a wide magnification range by connecting a Pentax bellows on a Newport 423 linear stage and a Tamron 90mm and Raynox DCR-250 in front of it. Since I had no idea about the harshness of the light, I aimed to soften the light by placing two sheets of A4 white paper facing each other (It turned out later that I was not very successful).

I realized that if I had set up the same system without the bellows, I would have had automatic aperture/exposure control and automatic light adjustment. The bellows I used for the additional magnification made the lens and exposure time manual. Actually, this is not a big drawback. It just needs a little more attention. You may need to monitor the changing light conditions and adjust the settings in case of factors such as cloud movement. If you use a mirrorless body, your job is easier. Even with fully manual lenses, the body can always change the exposure to adapt to the light conditions.

Since the Raynox was too much for the hornet, I took it out before shooting and used the Tamron alone. Since it was a test shot, I didn’t interfere with the background. Actually, it would be nice to have some greenery in the background 🙂

I shot from two different angles with focus stacking technique. The first one consists of 20 frames. f5.6 was preferred.


For the second attempt, I took it from the front and set the magnification higher. For 24 frames, f5.6 was again preferred.


As I expected, the soft tones were immediately noticeable. Since I shot in the evening light, the colors came out a bit too warm, but I left it as it was, after all, it’s natural light, let’s keep it natural. I didn’t get what I wanted in terms of detail level, but it became clear that I need to spend more time on natural light. I will try to improve my equipment and myself in this direction.

Update 11 Aug 2015

As you know, I’ve published several articles on natural light and I’ve been out in the field many times and had the opportunity to gain experience. This is arguably the best lighting method for macro shooting. If you can’t get natural light, you can get similar quality by using other continuous light sources. For example, Ikea Jansjö table lamps are very suitable for this job.

After I started working in this way, I completely abandoned the flash. I have been shooting without flash for about two years. I can say that I will continue to do so in the future.

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