Photography Tips & Techniques forum→Budget close-ups - Adding a flash to the mix

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Name: Asa
Wasatch Front - Utah
Bee Lover Garden Photography Region: Utah Garden Ideas: Master Level Photo Contest Winner: 2016 Photo Contest Winner 2019
Dec 18, 2014 9:08 PM CST
Using an inexpesive flash, two screw-on magnifiers, a kit lens, and some ingenuity, you can take very legit closeups in ANY light for about fifty bucks out-of-pocket using any DSLR. Here's an example of the results:
Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/e08435

This is a continuation of this thread:
The thread "Simple close-up DSLR photography...Point-and-Shoot Simple" in Photography Tips & Techniques forum

In that thread, I took a run-of-the-mill kit lens, screwed on a +2 and +4 magnifier, and got good results.

For this thread and the technique described in it, I add an aftermarket flash (which is identified in this thread):

You can use any flash that allows you to control the intensity of the flash. This one has + and - buttons that increase and decrease the intensity:
Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/cae773

For the purpose of this thread, it would be good if you knew a little about Aperture (f-stops)/ISO/Shutter Speed, but it's not entirely necessary to succeed with the technique described if you follow the instructions. You can learn more about those subjects in these two threads:
The thread "Photography 050: Light – ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed" in Photography Tips & Techniques forum
The thread "How I learned about f-stops" in Photography Tips & Techniques forum

Finally, if you have a legit 1:1 macro lens, the technique with the flash works wonderfully well, too. The only reason I used the screw-on magnifiers was to continue the on-the-cheap theme.

Also, if you try this technique, please post your results. I'm really interested.

The Construction
One thing that's tough when shooting close-ups is lighting them if they're not well-lit by natural light. The flash on your camera isn't designed to do this job because it is not aimed in the right place, and the attachable flashes are even worse given how high up on the camera they sit (relative to the lens). So, with this in mind, I decided that I needed to figure out how to aim a flash. To do this, I taped a cracker box to the flash and aimed it (more or less) at the focus point of the lens. Then I covered the open end of the cracker box with tissue paper to diffuse the light. See here:
Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/01d3ac

There's nothing more to it than finding the right size of box, quasi-aming it on/from the flash, and taping some tissue paper over the end of it. Close is good enough for this.

The Technique
In the other thread, the technique was to screw on the two magnifiers and go full auto - and let the camera determine the settings. For this technique to work properly, you need to take away the camera's ability to make choices for you about how much light to use - you control the light on the flash itself - so the camera needs to be in manual mode.

Settings - Manual Mode:
ISO 400
Shutter speed 1/100
Auto focus (or not)

Feel free to ignore this part if it's too technical (and just use the settings above).
f/7.1 is a pretty good aperture on most lenses and it will give you reasonable depth of focus. If you're getting enough light, you can kick up the aperture to get more focus depth.
ISO 400 is about as fast as you can go before some cameras start getting noisy. If you're getting enough light from the flash, you can reduce it to 200 or 100...or if not, increase it to 800 and see if the shots are not too grainy.
Shutter speed is purely dependent on the camera - in that you want the quickest shutter speed that will fire the flash (to reduce the potential for blurring/not holding the camera still long enough. On the Pentax K-x, that's 1/100 (or maybe 1/125?). On my Pentax K-3, it's either 1/160 or 1/200. But the main thing is faster is better (and even I can hold the camera still most of the time at 1/100).

So with the camera set up on manual with the settings described above, attach the magnifiers (+2 and +4) and attach the flash. Use the + and - buttons (or whatever your flash has) and set the intensity to somewhere in the middle, select a subject, get good focus, and shoot. Then look at the results in the LCD screen. If it's too washed out, decrease the intensity of the flash. If it's too dark, increase the intensity.

And all there is to it. You'll probably have to play around with it some and get a feel for it before you're entirely happy with the results, but it's easy. Even I get decent results.

The Results
Yesterday afternoon (17th Dec, 2014), I wandered around house, then the the yard and then back around the house shooting things that looked interesting. The outside shots were taken from about on a cloudy day in the late afternoon. Sorry for the volume, but part of the purpose of the thread is to show how quick and dirty this technique is. All of these shots were taken within the same hour and I'm only posting about 1/4 of what I took. Also note that none of them has been retouched (no photoshop or other manipulation) but many have been cropped.

Also note the neat foggy effect on the violets. My lens was cold and when I brought it in the house...well... Here goes:
Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/006bfa Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/fdc384 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/3acca6 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/52d414 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/026f13 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/a7b188 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/178bd2 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/c8d4b4 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/74f50f Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/fd4045 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/f02104 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/ebb366 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/909f26 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/93e91d Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/262824 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/c535eb Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/21647a Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/c7d10d Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/4684e5 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/4497c7 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/97b466 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/cad6b4 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/ff89fc Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/e88f24 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/fdac8d Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/0af046 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/55277f Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/dc1aaa Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/06866f Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/a55830 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/98db50 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/3fa3a8 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/90a020 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/e565bd Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/fe39fb Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/b798e5 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/32e0b1 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/cec4e8 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/cf063e Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/8a7bc7 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/07f2c6 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/ba1e3e Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/36270c Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/286475 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/3cf379 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/1561f3 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/70dd0f Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/5bcae9 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/9ab23a Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/ac8207 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/29ef8c Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/c8ec44 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/e219b5 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/b5357a Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/f58fba Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/adf0ac Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/1582ab Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/706844 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/6bb04b Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/f92b53 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/f69f05 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/f80169 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/8bb181 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/42bcc4 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/f0204e Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/b851c0 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/624722 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/4940f1 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/f2f429 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/d67e97 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/92b7bd Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/fccd53 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/d67266 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/ebd897 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/0536e4 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/3d5c2d Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/f06edc Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/297b29 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/b62a22 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/17483b Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/8ca257 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/764bb5 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/a2e9e5 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/41ffac Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/5c80e8 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/622053 Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/5cba7c Thumb of 2014-12-19/evermorelawnless/292549
This is fun: The thread "Asa's former lawn...or (better) Dirt's current gardens" in Garden Photos forum

My bee site - I post a new, different bee photo every day:
[Last edited by evermorelawnless - Dec 18, 2014 9:35 PM (+)]
Give a thumbs up | Quote | Post #751187 (1)
Name: Dirt
(Zone 5b)
Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Region: Utah Bee Lover Garden Photography Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Photo Contest Winner: 2015
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Photo Contest Winner: 2016 Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Photo Contest Winner 2018 Photo Contest Winner 2019 Photo Contest Winner 2020
Dec 18, 2014 11:59 PM CST
Unbelievable wall of photos just to illustrate a point Blinking Oh my!

The tissue paper cracker box flash is a great invention!
I tried a few too --diverged from the on-the-cheap-theme and went with the macro lens-- and didn't quite get the hang of how much light intensity to use in the dark. Shall have to practice that a bit more
Thumb of 2014-12-19/dirtdorphins/9084d3
Thumb of 2014-12-19/dirtdorphins/0b2dc5 Thumb of 2014-12-19/dirtdorphins/d3f5d5
Thumb of 2014-12-19/dirtdorphins/0dec9b Thumb of 2014-12-19/dirtdorphins/b304d1

Name: Sheila Caldon
Aiken, SC (Zone 8a)
Dragonflies Bookworm Hybridizer Garden Photography Daylilies Butterflies
Region: South Carolina Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Pollen collector Birds Lilies
Dec 19, 2014 10:58 AM CST
Great photos, Asa!
Beauty pleases, not only the eyes, but the heart as well. ~~Sheila
Name: Sheila Caldon
Aiken, SC (Zone 8a)
Dragonflies Bookworm Hybridizer Garden Photography Daylilies Butterflies
Region: South Carolina Dog Lover Plant and/or Seed Trader Pollen collector Birds Lilies
Dec 19, 2014 11:00 AM CST
I really like your point of focus, dirtdorphins!
Beauty pleases, not only the eyes, but the heart as well. ~~Sheila

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