Lighting For Night Macro

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated May 13, 2017


Lighting for night macro uses the same equipment as day macro, with the addition of a small torch in order to see what you're doing.

A mini Maglite works well, because you can focus the light output which will help you in your camera focusing as well.

night macro

Grasshopper nighttime macro taken with my night macro rig. Grasshoppers and crickets seem to love pottering about on hedges at night. Nice to photograph because they have tubes in their eyes with black at the back, so they always look as if they're looking straight at you.

Nighttime is a great time to shoot extreme macro in the field if, like me, you have a daytime job so you can't get out and do macro because you're busy at work. You don't get the flies, bees, wasps and butterflies that you'll get during the day but with a bit of a safari round the garden there's more than enough to throw the camera at if you look carefully.

Night Macro With Flash

The settings that you use on your average flash-only macro image during the day will work perfectly well at night as well.

Adding a torch will have no effect on your image as the flash and exposure is usually fast enough to remain your only source.

Night Macro Rig

The rig that I constructed for night macro works very well indeed without needing to wear a head torch or try and carry a torch as well as the camera. This rig can be constructed from easy to order parts.

I attach the rig onto an extension tube using parts of a rainpipe cut to shape with holes in it, and then to carry the torch I use a GoPro rollbar mount.

A mini maglite fits comfortably into the rollbar mount and is convenient to use because it can be used with 2 rechargeable AA batteries.

The maglite solitaire also works well but I prefer the mini. The Solitaire is small and light enough to be mounted on a diffuser but I found it handier to have the light on a separate arm, hence the preference for the mini.

At night I usually use the anybrand MP-E 65 as it has the greatest versatility in terms of shooting different sized insects.

Attracting Insects

As is well known, bright porch lights will attract insects at nights. Moths especially react to the UV light put out by these things. Moths go round and round in circles because they are trying to fly at a constant angle to the light.

If you want to increase the amount of insects that you see for your night photography then a standard mv Robinson moth trap is your friend as this will attract other insects besides moths.

At night, you'll come across different insects that you come across during the day. There are a lot more insects about that can only walk on foot, presumably to avoid bird predation.

UV at night

Another very cool thing to try out at night is using UV lighting. UV induced fluorescence is a very long name for the light that's given off by certain plants and animals when you shine a UV light at them. In England there are some lichens that look really good under such lighting and a few insects as well, but in the tropics there are interesting things like scorions that do so, and if you're under the water then you're in for a complete treat if you try this. Good UV torches use a 365nM source and can be pricey, budget options don't work nearly as well but may get you a little and it's even possible to hack an old flash to achieve this as well.

Comments (1)

Article: Night Macro Lighting
Harold Gough says...
I had some success with converging beams from lasers. This is for operating with small apertures on manual lenses and at quite high magnifications (x3-4). I did this in daylight and some low light situations.

You can purchase pen-sized lasers cheaply. You then attach (tape) one to each of two converging (at the subject) flash guns. The point where the laser beams join to form one spot confirms (precalibrated)focus.

A variation was to replace one laser with a pencil white light, this illuminating the subject to help getting it framed.
28th October 2014 8:26am
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