Ring Light for Macro and Close-Up in Nature March 1, 2016 – Posted in: Photography – Tags: , , , ,

Close-up photography in nature is different than in the studio. Things move in nature. And they tend to move quickly, especially if they sense you want a picture.

This chase around the garden has led to me experimenting with different lighting schemes. My preference is pure natural light. And when conditions are favorable, that’s still my first choice. But I’ve encountered many potentially good subjects in bad light. For those situations, I have to add a little something extra.

The DIY ring flash modifier has beautiful output. But it was too clumsy for running around outdoors.

The DIY ring flash modifier has beautiful output. But it was too clumsy for running around outdoors.

My favorite solution has been ring lighting. I had already explored this type of illumination for portraits. And I learned that subjects absolutely love how they look with this type of diffusion. So why not bees and butterflies too?

I’ve tried two different types of rings. The first was an adapter for my flash, and the second was a lightweight LED model when I needed more portability. Each was affordable and produced great results.

The DIYP Ring Flash Kit costs $24.95 and takes about 30 minutes to assemble. I liked the light it produces when modifying my flash output, but it’s not the easiest rig to chase butterflies with. So unless the shoot is in the garden just outside my backdoor, I’ve been using it more for portraits inside.

LED ring lighting seems more practical for outside work.

LED ring lighting seems more practical for outside work.

I then tried the Neewer 48 Marco LED Ring Light that includes a set of 6 adapter rings and sells for $33. Because it’s much smaller than the flash modifiers, the rig is very maneuverable. I simply attach the light to the front of the lens, slide the power pack (4 AA bateries) into the camera’s hot shoe, flip on the switch, and I’m ready to go.

Even though it’s an LED light, the Neewer 48 still provided enough fill for most shots. For even more juice, however, I then purchased the Bolt VM-160 LED Macro Ring Light for $109. This bad boy has quite a feature list:

  • Guide Number: 69′ / 21m at ISO 100
  • Eighteen High-Output LEDs
  • Six Levels of Brightness Adjustment
  • Continuous Light & Flash Modes
  • Left & Right Only Illumination Modes
  • 1.6″ Backlit LCD Display
  • Clear, Frosted, Blue, & Amber Diffusers
  • Eight Adapter Rings from 49-77mm
  • Stand/Tripod Mount Included
  • Runs on 4 AA Batteries

And it is bright! The Bolt is almost too intense for people photography, even at its lowest power output. But for keeping up with bees in bright sunlight, it’s great.


So, with Spring just around the corner, you may want to start setting up your macro rig now. A terrific resource to help you with all phases is The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher. The eBook is available now, and the soft cover will ship in April.

Close-up photography adds a lot of punch to your image library. Plus, I like the challenge of it.

Derrick Story is the photography evangelist for Rocky Nook Publishing.