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by Ruben Dario Cruz
Do shoot with a 1:1 macro lens for the best detail and understand the specifications. For example, macro lenses achieve life size reproduction at the minimum focusing distance. Depending on your subject you may need one that achieves that at 11” or 18”. For subjects that move it is better to have a macro lens that allows you more working distance so you don’t disturb your subject. I shoot primarily with a 180mm f/3.5 when shooting insects as it allows an 18.5” MFD. When shooting flowers I shoot a 90mm f/2.8.
Do use a ring light to help freeze motion and add light to dark places. It also creates a catch light in the eyes of insects, which in turns creates volume.
Do use a small portable scrim to help diffuse and create even light on your subjects when shooting in harsh sunlight. This will increase detail in the shadow areas and reduce blown out highlights.
Do use a device to help keep your flowers steady in windy conditions. I use the Wimberley Plamp ™ to secure my flowers.
Do be aware of the direction of available light and use it to your advantage. For example if you are shooting at high noon, where the sunlight is directly above, shadows tend to be harsh. However if you use a reflector below your subject bouncing the light from above harsh shadows can be eliminated.
Do know your subject, whether you’re shooting flowers or insects, become familiar with the blooming habits and nesting periods of both to maximize your shooting time. I suggest purchasing a book of insects and flowers in your region.
Don’t go into the field unprepared. Create a checklist of items and be sure you have them with you before you leave.
Don't forget to always bring extra batteries and media cards to every shoot.
Because depth of field is extremely shallow at 1:1 reproductions, stop down your aperture as much as your lighting situation will allow to maximize your D.O.F. If this is not enough, than increase your lights output and adjust. As a rule of thumb I shoot my insects and flower images at around F/11-F/22 and adjust my shutter according to the effect I desire.
Do be sure you set the proper white balance for your light. Custom white balance is best but using the pre-sets on your D-SLR is excellent as well. Do not use Auto WB when using mixed light!