Meet the Ringflash

Hi again friends!

In this post I’m going to write a few words about my experience with the macro ring flash. To be honest it’s a pretty limited experience as although I got this flash as a present one year ago I have only used it 4-5 times (indoors and outdoors) since then. However I would like to share with you some impressions.

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What the outdoor experience concerns there’s few to say. I used it a couple of days and each time the weather was sunny so its usage didn’t quite make a difference. Ok, as mentioned my experience is limited, I’ll have further opportunities to test it in the field as the “insects season” is coming.

However there’s more to say about indoor photos as in the last weeks I spent 2-3 hours per week testing it in my apartment. I used small toys (like smurfs) and other tiny objects for the macro/close-up shots. Following steps were performed for getting the setup done:

  • the camera was switched to manual mode (M)
  • aperture: f16-f22
  • shutter speed: enough to get the photo underexposed -1EV with flash off (according to matrix measuring lightmeter)
  • ISO: 100
  • ring flash set to light on both sides or on the left side (natural light was coming from the right side through the windows)
  • flash power was set usually in the middle but sometimes I had to over- or undercompensate. Minimum for my ring flash is 1/64 (-1.5EV) while maximum is 1/1 (+1.5EV).
  • macro factor set between 1:3 and 1:1.
  • manual focus (M) and/or back-button AF
  • self-timer with 5 seconds delay combined with 3 seconds exposure delay mode.

Equipment used indoors was following:

  • D500 with 105/2.8G micro Nikkor lens
  • tripod (Manfrotto 190XPROB with 804RC2 3D head)
  • a RF550D ring flash with two separate LED groups (left and right)
  • the flash cardboard box as “moving platform”
  • my personal cell phone was placed on the box for creating a dark background for the subject when required

To be mentioned is that I used this flash without its included diffuser. I will do this on a later occasion but for now I needed to check how it works without any light modifiers.

The results can be seen below. My first conclusion is following: it takes some practice to get used to this flash and to learn its “secrets”. One thing to be noted is the underexposure part: to obtain the desired contrast and tones I had to severely underexpose (minimum -1EV), otherwise the resulting photos would get too bright and washed up. Also a good (read steady) tripod-mounted platform would be needed for moving camera to the object after setting up the macro factor. I really missed this as I only have a 3D tripod head which is not the best choice for macro. To compensate I had to improvise a box on which the small objects were placed and move it slowly to the camera to get them in focus.

Last but not least let me tell a few words about background choice. You probably noticed some smoke behind the subjects in some of the shots. This smoke has been created intentionally by using a vaping device (electronic cigarette). Yes, I am a “vaper” and it was a good occasion to combine the hobby with the habit. I don’t recommend you to do this unless you have this habit too, however I find it a good idea to use smoke to make the background softer and hide unwanted objects that might draw attention from the purpose of the photo. Another idea is to use a dark background which I did in some of the frames shot “from above”. The dark background combined with the ring flash provides high contrast and makes the pictures look more dramatic. I used my smartphone cover and placed the objects on its surface in order to obtain the dark background. However I needed to darken the surface even more in Lightroom as some texture details were still visible. This was done by using the brush to select the surface surrounding the object and then apllying a shadow and exposure setup combo. Regarding white backgrounds I don’t advise using them without coloured flash gels (my flash has a blue coloured diffuser for overcast days) as there might be issues in getting a proper white balance when combining the flash light with natural light coming from the window. Finally I would recommend using low reflective material as background. A cardboard would be a good idea while a glossy surface would cause unwanted flash reflections that might spoil the picture.

I hope my findings will help you in getting some beautiful macro/close-up photos lit by the ringflash. It is definitely worth using it, however as previously mentioned it takes some practice until getting familiar with it.

Looking forward for your comments.

PS. Check these posts too:

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