I started macro photography a little over a year ago. I used my speedlight attached and as well handheld at the beginning but realised quickly that it was cumbersome. Either, the flash didn't illuminate the subject (because it overshot the subject or I didn't point the flash onto the subject), it was too bright or I missed the shot because I couldn't adjust anything on the fly.
I looked on the web for solutions and what other photographers use. I came across ring flashes, flash arms and a lot of other items. My budget was restricted and so I thought for a while on how I could build a light shaper on the cheap.
The result I came up with is simple and cost next to nothing.
I will explain step by step how I build it in a minute. First up, the solution worked a treat and since I have it, I have successfully captured many insects such as the Blowfly image above.
Macro SetupSpeedlight reflector setup
To create a flash shaper, as shown above, all you needed was aluminium foil (aka tin foil) and some gaffer tape or electrician tape and clear sticky tape.
First, you tear off a square piece of aluminium foil, fold it in half to make it a bit stronger. Now you fold in two edges as shown below. To make the light shaper more sturdy and less prone to ripping, take the clear sticky tape and stick it across one side of the aluminium foil. Best done on the side without the folded over edges. Trim the sticky tape so it is flush with the foil. Turn the foil around and place gaffer tape/electrician tape onto the backside of the light shaper, making sure to neatly tape over the folded edges. Trim the tape off again on the edge of the foil. To strengthen the edge, use narrow gaffer tape and place it halve the width onto the shiny side (as you can see in the photo) and fold it over and stick it down on the back side. Now, rub all over the light shaper to firmly stick down both tapes on both sides. I had some minor issues with the tape peeling off until I rubbed it firmly on.
Light shaperHome made light shaper.
To attach the light shaper to the speedlight, take two rubber bands and place it on top of the speedlight as shown in my photo above.
This light shaper is cheap, lightweight and flexible. It can be rolled up or just placed into your camera bag for the next amazing insect you discover.
With this light shaper, the light from the flash will still travel straight ahead (yellow arrow, see below) and illuminate the subject just slightly due to the light being not straight but cone-shaped (yellow dotted arrows). The main light beam will travel beyond the subject and brighten up the background. The light shaper will catch some of the light (orange) and bounce it onto the subject.
Light coneThe direction of the light produced by your speedlight is not straight but more like a cone. The reflector bounces the upwards travelling beams and redirect it onto the subject.
I hope this light shaper will help you to succeed in your endeavour to capture the amazing macro world.