How to Capture Natural Light for Macro Photography

Capturing natural light can be especially difficult in macro photography. Generally, macro photography requires precise lighting setups, but using natural light is not impossible if you know how to control it.

Step 1: Exposure

When shooting macro photography, the world you are working with is very small. Often, to get the frame that you want, you need to place the camera extremely close to the subject. This causes very minimal depth of field. Usually, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but in macro photography, the focus plane is so narrow that you cannot see the entire object clearly. To compensate, you need to close down your aperture as much as you can. This in turn increases the depth of field and allows you to focus on more of the object. If it is a bright sunny day, this should not cause a problem. The sun provides plenty of light and will not interfere with closing down the aperture. 

Step 2: Motion Blur

You have successfully set exposure with a small aperture in natural light. However, you may now be encountering a motion blur problem with a slower shutter speed. Since you are committed to natural light, you will not be able to add more light in order to speed up the shutter. So, you will need to stabilize your camera. Take a strong stance and prop your elbows onto something sturdy. Use a controlled shutter release technique to avoid any camera movement during your shot. Ideally, you would set up a tripod, but in the field this is not always a viable option.

Step 3: Ambient Light Differences

Another thing to look out for when shooting with available light is differences in color temperature. In nature, there is only one light source, the sun. However, if you are in a city environment, keep an eye out for light coming from the street or buildings. In macro photography, differences in color temperature are magnified much like everything else. The strongest light source will prevail, and this will probably be what you set your white balance to. However, other ambient sources will fill the shadows cast by the strongest light source and cause them to turn different hues. You can control this by carrying around a card with one side black and the other side white. Use this to block the contrasting light sources and possibly bounce back some of the stronger light source.

Step 4: Enhancing Natural Light

Though you will not be carrying around any artificial lamps on your natural light mission, you can still harness the power of the existing light. As was introduced in step 3, a bounce card can become extremely handy. Bright sunshine can leave part of your image lost in shadow. Positioning a bounce properly will return some of the sun's own light to fill the darker areas of your subject. You are still using all natural sources, but you are manipulating them for your purposes.

Shooting macro in natural light is difficult due to lack of control. However, being prepared will allow you to capture excellent images despite the obstacles.

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