So you have your camera, macro lens and a flash with a diffuser. You have your spare memory cards and batteries. What more could you want for macro photography?
Here are 5 macro accessories I can’t do without, and why they matter:
Carbon-fibre tripod in an era of cameras with vibration reduction/image stabilization and instantly changeable high ISO capabilities, many photographers no longer consider the tripod as a useful accessory. Rather, it is seen as an encumbrance and burden; I once thought so myself and I used my Manfrotto 055 only when doing landscapes. But carbon fibre has opened up a whole new field of light-weight but sturdy tripods. You don’t need a 7′ behemoth for most macro work: a lightweight travel-style tripod that can be spread low becomes an accessory that has many uses beyond the obvious:
- down low for natural-light macro of static insects, fungi and wildflowers
- as a mobile video camera support, on the shoulder
- background support
- reflector/diffuser support
- camera-bag rack when you need to keep your equipment off the wet ground
Right-angle viewfinder is another item that is rarely seen these days. They allow the photographer to use the camera at ground level without having to do a belly-flopping faceplant. Indeed, with the advent of live-view LCD screens, and in some cases, tilting LCD screens, this reason for using an right-angle viewfinder can be thought of as pointless. However, screens are notoriously hard to use in full sun, and determining if the subject is in focus is can be difficult unless you zoom in on the screen. Right angle viewfinders bring your eye to the eyepiece, blocking out external glare, and the allow you to see the view-screen and subject clearly and sharply(most provide an option for a magnified view), and without getting grit in your beard…
Knee pads may seem an old fogey’s tool, but I think many could benefit from a pair of these light-weight items. The need to get down to the level of your subject, often quickly, can bang the heck out of your knees. Then shuffling along trying to stay in range of a scurrying subject…well, it is easy to ignore the pain in the heat of the photographic moment, but knee-pads have saved my jeans and my knees from many a painful contact with sharp-edged stones, thorns and piercing twigs. Consider it a necessary accessory for all young macro photographers who want the knees to survive long enough so they can be old macro photographers.
Diffuser/Reflector not necessary for most active insect work, these accessories can by purchased in a single package with many interchangeable options, and are great for diffusing sunlight and filling shadows for natural light macro landscapes, fungi and wildflowers. Also useful for blocking breezes, and the diffuser can be used as a white background for studio-style shots. The reflectors can also be used as a large bounce surface for lighting macro landscapes with flash. And during moments of boredom, they do a fine Frisbees imitation…
Wimberly Plamp is a light-weight extra arm for supporting reflectors, diffusers, flags and backgrounds. They can hold back foliage, hold up subjects like twigs and leaves, steady stems in a breeze…a wealth of uses from a simple device. (if you want to support an extra flash, a stronger and heavier arm such as the Manfrotto Magic Arm or flex arm could be used)
- No-Fail Checklist for Macro (bugs.adrianthysse.com)
- SquareBounce – A Different Take on the Collapsible Reflector (petapixel.com)
- Updated: Best tripods and camera supports: 15 tested (techradar.com)