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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials In Focus: The Basics of External Flash Photography- Part13

Photography with Macro Lite Flash

Macro Lite is a flash unit that is attached to the front end of the lens for use when you are taking a close-up shot. There are two models in Canon's Macro Lite lineup: the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX and the Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX. Both models enable users to obtain an appropriate amount of brightness when the flash is fired from a distance as close as 2cm from the subject. Not only does it allow small subjects to be captured in vivid colours, you can make good use of the unique shadows created in the expression with the flash fired from the optical axis of the lens. (Reported by: Koji Ueda)

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The inside of a spiral shell is like an abstract painting

I wanted to brighten the inside of the spiral shell to make the interior pattern look like an abstract painting. Even though I needed to move extremely close to the subject in order to capture a macro shot, the Macro Ring Lite flash was able to illuminate the cylindrical-shaped interior of the shell thoroughly with light emitted from the front end of the lens. Also, firing a flash helps to reproduce the colour of the subject in a beautiful tone. In this example, I set the flash mode to E-TTL, and allow automatic control of the flash exposure.

EOS 60D/ EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1 sec.)/ ISO 100/ Exposure compensation: +1.3EV/ White balance: Auto/ Flash: Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX (Flash mode: E-TTL)/ Flash ratio (left:right) = 1:1


  • Illuminate the interior of the shell by firing flash from the front end of the lens
  • Use the flash light to reproduce the colour of the subject in a beautiful tone

Shooting Condition

The distance from the front end of the lens to the shell is about 0.1m. If flash is fired from a conventional external Speedlite unit, light would be reflected from the sides of the subject. The interior of the shell would not be illuminated in this case, resulting in a significantly underexposed shot. Here, I attached the Macro Ring Lite to the front end of the lens to brighten the inside of the shell.

Position of the subject, camera and Speedlite

A: Approx. 0.1m

Capturing small insects in vivid colours while brightening the background

To capture a close-up shot of the tiny ladybird in vivid colours, I fired the Macro Twin Lite that I attached to my macro lens. Also, to brighten the background, I fired the Speedlite 550EX at the background above the subject via remote control. Diffusers were placed in front of each of the flash units to help diffuse the light.

EOS 5D Mark II/ MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5X Macro/ Manual exposure (f/16, 1/160 sec.)/ ISO 200/ White balance: Auto/ Flash: Wireless flash


  • Use a flash for macro photos to capture the subject in vivid colours
  • Use a second flash to brighten the background

Wireless Flash Settings

Flash mode: Manual flash/ Flash setting: Master (MT-24EX, 1/4) + Slave 1 (580EX, 1/4)/ Flash ratio for MT-24EX (left:right = 1:1)/ Flash angle: Master (MT-24EX, 24mm)/ Slave 1 (550EX, 24mm)

Shooting Condition

The subject is extremely small in size, so I captured it at a distance of about 4cm from the front end of the lens to the subject. It would be difficult to brighten the subject with conventional external Speedlite units in this case. Also, the Macro Lite flash alone was not sufficient to brighten the surroundings, thus resulting in a dark background.

Position of the subject, camera and Speedlite

A: Slave 1

B: Master Flash ON

C: Approx. 0.04m

Casting unique shadows in a portrait

If a Macro Ring Lite flash attached to the lens is fired in the same way as a conventional Speedlite flash, a light shadow will be created, which seems to add a border to the outline of the subject. Shown here is an example of a portrait shot that makes use of such a characteristic. A pale pink or blue colour is recommended for the background, as the shadow will be created in a rich tone. Allowing a distance of about 1 to 1.5m from the subject to the wall makes it easy to cast a sufficiently large shadow.

EOS 7D/ EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro/ Program AE (f/4.0, 1/60 sec.)/ ISO 400/ White balance: Colour temperature (5400K)/ Flash: Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX (E-TTL, flash exposure compensation: +1/3EV)/ Flash ratio (left:right) = 1:1


  • Cast a unique shadow using Macro Ring Lite
  • Choose a wall with a pale colour as the background

Shooting Condition

Firing the Speedlite 580EX II attached to the hot shoe of the camera results in a strong shadow to the side of the subject. While this is also one of the techniques in flash expression, I chose to use the Macro Ring Lite to cast a more unique shadow.

Position of the subject, camera and Speedlite

A: Approx. 3m

B: Approx. 1.5m

Koji Ueda

Born in Hiroshima in 1982, Ueda started his career as an assistant for photographer Shinichi Hanawa. He later became a freelance photographer, and is now engaged in a wide range of work from magazines to commercials while shooting different cities and landscapes all around the world. He is also a writer and a lecturer at photography lectures and workshops.