An online book of Common Sense Photography, by Rhett Stuart

How to do Table Top Macro Photography with Flash


The ideal angle for a flash for table top macro photography is 45 degrees from each side. This causes less reflection off the objects.

Get two flash units about 3-4 feet high and 3-4 feet off to each side from your object. Make sure the angle of the flash won’t be blocked by the camera lens. For some lenses the flash unit will need to be lowered, but 45 degrees is optimum to avoid reflection and overexposed highlights. The 45 degree angle also reveals texture in the objects and doesn’t look “washed out.”

Most table top macro photography is done with a 50mm macro lens. It is not convenient to use a longer focal length lens because here is an increased working distance from the object to the lens. Also, the longer lens and camera are added to the extra height, and now you are trying to look through the viewfinder. If the arrangement is too high a stool might be needed! Models with live view can help but you still need to look at the screen on the back of the camera!

It is much easier to work off of a table than the floor when a lot of objects need to be photographed. Take a little time to set up and organize the equipment and save a lot more time later! Place labels with the objects in the photographs so they can be readily identified later by just the photograph.

Another solution is to take photographs in a white room, and use a Gary Fong attachment. Block the lighting directly between the flash and the close up object so only reflective lighting hits the object.