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Troubleshooting Macro Flash Units

Fix Problems With Your DSLR's Macro Flash Unit


Troubleshooting Macro Flash Units

A universal macro LED light is designed to fit many kinds of cameras, and it can be a good value at around $100 (Compare Prices) ... as long as it fits your camera.


Macro flash units are cool pieces of technology, allowing you to attach them directly to the lens of your camera for illuminating a close-up subject in macro mode. Some built-in flash units or speedlight flash units can wash out a macro photo.

Other types of newer macro lighting units consist of LED lights on a ring that fits around the lens housing of the camera, as pictured here. These are great as they're going to provide light to the scene that's less harsh and that can help you have a more successful photo.

Regardless of the type of macro flash or macro lighting unit you're using for your photography, you may run into problems from time to time. If you're having trouble with your lighting units for macro photography, use these troubleshooting tips.

  • Before purchasing a macro flash unit, be sure it will fit your model of lens and camera. For example, just because you buy a Nikon macro flash unit, that doesn’t mean it will fit every Nikon camera and every Nikon interchangeable lens. Don’t waste your money by purchasing a macro flash unit that requires camera and lens equipment you don’t own.

  • You can sometimes find some macro LED units that are called "universal," meaning they're designed to fit most types of camera. This can be an option if you're having difficulty finding a macro flash or macro light unit for your camera, but you'll want to be certain that it will fit your particular camera. After all, the term universal isn't equal to 100% success.

  • Some cameras and lenses can accept a lens adapter unit that allow them to then work with a macro flash unit. Make sure you know exactly what pieces of hardware you’ll need to use a macro flash unit and factor these extra pieces into your overall budget.

  • Most macro flash units can run from either a battery or an AC adapter. If you’re going to use the macro flash unit continuously for a long period of time, consider purchasing an AC adapter for it, otherwise you'll quickly drain the battery, causing problems.

  • When attaching the macro flash unit to your camera, make sure it locks into place. Some units will make an audible click when they’re in place. Others have a switch or a wheel that allows you to lock the macro flash units in place. If the unit doesn't lock, you could end up damaging it or damaging the camera.

  • Do not hold or carry the camera by the macro flash unit alone, or you could damage the threads on the unit, the lens, or the camera ... or all three.

  • To use the macro flash unit with most cameras, you’ll need to set your camera to macro mode, and you’ll need to turn off the built-in flash or the speedlight flash with your camera. With some cameras, you’ll need to make sure the camera’s white balance is set to “auto” as well. Read through your macro flash unit’s user guide to be certain your camera settings are correct for using the unit.

  • Some macro flash units will render the viewfinder useless, meaning you’ll have to frame your photo using the LCD.

  • Some cameras can only work at a certain distance from the subject when using a macro flash unit. Be sure to stay within this range when using the macro flash, or your photos will not be properly exposed, and you’ll have uneven illumination.

  • With certain angles of the lens -- and depending on the reflectivity of the subject -- you might find the macro flash unit causing an odd shadow or reflection in the frame. Try changing the angle of your photo.

  • Be prepared to have a different “feel” for the camera’s balance when using a macro flash unit or a macro LED unit. The unit adds some weight to the front of the camera, which may feel awkward for a while. Make sure that you try out the camera with the unit attached before you tackle an important photography session so you aren't wrestling with the balance at a time you should be shooting.

  • Finally, with some camera and macro flash unit combinations, you can shoot extreme close-ups (less than an inch) by simply laying the camera lens and macro flash or macro LED unit directly on the subject. This works especially well for text on a page from a book or on a map. Try this technique for tricky shots.
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