In several photography forums, I was asked how I do the lighting of my nature macros. There are quite a lot flash solutions for this which can be bought for about US$ 30-US$ 1000 and beyond. However, I prefer a home made solution, which costs me less than US$ 2. I did not invent it myself, but borrowed the idea from a talented Polish Pentax user, which on the net is known as 'Grzehoofr', google him! He uses the on-board flash of his camera, in combination with a diffuser that leads the light of the flash directly to the model.
In this tutorial I will show you how to make such a diffuser. I had to make a new one for my Vivitar 55mm/F2.8 1:1 macro + 25mm Kenko tube. This is the first important point: you need a diffuser for every different length of macro lenses you use. My Viv+Kenko measure 15cm.
What you need is:
- a piece of cardboard
- packing foam or another diffusing material
- aluminium foil
- some all purpose glue
- duck tape
- a pencil, a pair of scissors, a sharp knife, and a ruler
The length of the diffuser is the length of the macro lens + tubes + 10cm. So my diffuser will be 25 cm eventually. We have to make a tube with 4 sides, so cut a rectangular of 25x24.3cm from the cardboard. This 24.3cm is 4 times 6cm (the width of the tube) + 1 time the thickness of the cardboard (in my case 3mm). Make folding lines in the length at every 6 cm. Because we need a backside on the tube, we need a square piece too, which measures 6.6x6.6cm (6x6 + the thickness of the cardboard on all sides). NOTE: with smaller lenses, such as the Pentax-A 100/4 or the Takumar 50/4 macro, I use smaller tubes with sides of 4 cm each!
Glue the aluminium foil to the two pieces of cardboard with the shiny side up. I used a large piece of foil, which was cut with the scissors after I glued it.
Assemble the tube with some ducktape, use the square part for the backside.
In the hurry, I forgot to cut out the 'window' for the diffuser foil, so I had to do it after I assembled the tube. Of course this can be done earlier, but I thought this was quite convenient too. At the open end of the tube, cut out a piece from one of the sides at 5cm from the edge. From both adjacent sides, cut out triangles, as shown in the photo.
Stick the diffuser foil with some ducktape at the open end of the tube. I used a double layer, but this is dependent of the thickness of the foil. Finish the tube with ducktape.
The last thing we have to do is making the opening for the on-board flash. From the bottom of the tube cut out an opening at about 2cm from the end. It must be large enough for the flash, so the exact measurements will be dependent of the type of camera you have.
Attach the tube at the camera with a rubber band and get out shooting. The photo of the ant is one of the first made with this new tube. It's uncropped and the lightning is not adjusted.