DIY softboxes/diffusers for macro photography?

Discussion in 'Lighting Forum' started by hazwing, Jan 7, 2014.

  1. hazwing

    hazwing Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 25, 2012
    I recently bought a 60mm macro and spent a little time shooting some spiders and small flowers. I've been finding the shallow DOF, makes it difficult to get things in focus. I'd like to introduce flash and shoot with a smaller aperture, giving me more DOF.

    I've briefly seen some home-job softboxes and I'd like to create something myself. I have the attach-on flash that comes with the EM5 and a fl-600r. Any suggestions on what to do?
  2. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    Mini diffusers are so cheap, it is hardly worth trying to jury-rig one.

    What I have found works well is to use the FL-600R on a bracket connected to the camera with a ball head so that the flash is at the side and pointing at the macro subject with the mini softbox diffuser, using either a hotshoe cable or the wireless RC mode with the clip-on flash to fire it.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. JamieW

    JamieW Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 25, 2013
    For a cheap DIY option, you could use a small cardboard box, cut a hole in the back for the flash, fill the inside with aluminum foil and cover the surface with a few layers of wax paper. Add more layers until it's not too harsh. I did this with pretty good results back in the early 2000's before buying some proper gear.

    Also remember, there are two main characteristics that determine how hard or soft a shadow will be: How large the light is, and how close it is to the subject. If you want a more diffused / softer light source, make the light source as large as possible and get it as close to the subject as possible. For the example above, the wax paper in effect becomes the light source, as it's the last thing the light passes through before reaching your subject. The bigger the box, the softer the shadows.

    You could also make a tent. Get you an egg crate and cut out the sides, or make a PVC frame and wrap it in a sheet or wax paper. Put your subject in the frame. You could even use some glossy paper under the subject for a slight reflection. Or better yet, a sheet of black acrylic makes a nice background for product photography which is popular with macro work.

    I spent many hours building make-shift lighting mods for $5 or less in the early 2000's. It's a good way to learn the fundamentals of lighting.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. 0dBm

    0dBm Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 30, 2011
    Western United States
    I don't like soft boxes because they can still impart a hot spot on the image particularly at closer distances such as when doing macro work. I prefer a bounce card.
    This website sells them:

    A very economical solution is to go to your local arts and crafts store and buy a 8.5" x 11" white card stock. Cut the sheet in half and tape it to the back of the flash unit. Point the flash up when using. Cost is about 10 cents for the sheet.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. FastCorner

    FastCorner Mu-43 Veteran

    May 28, 2011
    I've had some luck with macro lighting using cardboard boxes with diffuser windows cut into them. I also am a fan if the Rogue Flashbender, which gives you softbox-like diffusion while remaining very portable.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 21, 2013
    N Essex, UK
    DOF is certainly a challenge with macro!

    I've used a few very simple DIY diffusers in the past to good effect, cigarette papers work well as they can be stuck temporaily to the flash & extra layers needed as required. (I'm a non smoker but picked up a pack for macro use) Ive also used plain white toilet tissue held over the flash when I didn't have the chance to grab something better. A bit awkward but works OK as long as it doesn't go infront of the lens.
    The purchased diffuser I have is not significantly better than these options & is never to hand when I want it.

    In some cases simply bouncing the flash off paper/card works brilliantly, and an off camera TTL flash cord is also a great option, sometimes just holding the flash at arms length to one side give ideal lighting and the added distance brings it into an acceptable brightness range.

    For a jury rigged macro tent - a plastic storage box with a hole cut in the side for the lens can work, but the pop up e-bay ones are better and cheap enough IMO.
    • Like Like x 1
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.