Macro Photography Accessories

Below are a description of some other accessories that, while not absolutely necessary, may be handy for macro photography. We have given a description so that you can understand why they are required.

Macro focusing rails

Tripod mounted slide rails
Tripod mounted slide rails

Macro Focusing Rail & Tripod. Note that when you do this you are putting a lot of additional force on the ball head, for this reason I often swap the ball head for a more solid video head and then you need to se the coarser adjust ments on the tripod! fine adjustment on the slide rails is easy!

Anyone that has attempted macro photography has experienced the inherent difficulties with focusing. Depth of field is measured in millimeters, and the slighest movement of the camera is enough to completely change the focus and composition. When you use high magnifications with a reversed lens or extension tubes, focusing becomes extremely difficult. A focus rail may help you because it gives you control over camera movement. It is more desirable to move the camera than to change the focus, as when you have everything magnified the lense focusing will change the field of view, on most lenses.

Also, in macro photography, when you turn the focus ring on a macro lens with internal focusing, you change magnification at the same time, so using conventional technique for focusing does not work well with this type of macro lens. Instead, you should do the following: First decide on the magnifaction you want, and set it on the lens. Then you need to move the entire camera and lens in and out to actually focus. To do this handheld or with an ordinary tripod is an exercise in frustration, but a focusing rail makes this process much easier.

Focusing rails comes in all shapes and sizes. Some are quite cheap, others are more expensive. If you are on a tight budget, you can get functioning macro focusing rail for less than USD 30. If you use a tripod with a quick release system, there are many manufacturers that make a very good focus rails. I suggest you spend here to buy the 2 directionally adjust able rails, that is that go forward and back for focusing and left and right for positioning. Then you just need to think about going up and down on your tripod and adjusting the viewing angle. I use ARCA-Swiss plates, as they are quite standard, and easily available. When you choose a name brand, such as Manfroto plates, then you find that is all you can use.

Most focusing rails uses a rack-and-pinion mechanism to move the camera and lens. Some very expensive rails from Kirk and RRS make use of the Arca-Swiss quick release format. These do not allow the plate to slide normally compleatly out, as they have catch screws to limit the travel when they are loose, in the bottom of the plate. To use this type, you need a head or tripod clamp system built around the Arca-Swiss “dovetail” type quick release bracket. These can easily be bought on eBay or Amazon, if your local supplier does not have them. Focusing rails have standard imperial photographic threads and mount directly on most standard tripods. I prefer to have the slide rails screwed to the tripod rather than clamped (having seen a camera fall from a tripod!)

  • Search eBay for macro focusing rails
  • Search eBay for Manfrotto 454 focusing rail
  • Search Amazon for macro focusing rails

Note that focusing rails featuring a geared drive is better for fine focus adjustment. Some rails that have locking knobs to make sure that the focus remains locked, however the rail normally have tight friction threads which a are smooth and hold in place. When you are focus stacking, then you normally have to move quickly as your subject may move.

Focusing rails can also be used to help with camera positioning, something that is important in macro work in order to control background coverage.

So since we want more depth of field, we are working close to the subject, eventually we decide we need some more light! So we add some flash or speedlight

Macro flash brackets

My efforts to set these up have not been that successful as you end up with a big setup of 2 flashes mounted off camera pointing just in front of the lens, so they need to be forward and pointing in! Remember you are working close to the subject, if not right on top of it! so there is not much space left! The higher the magnification the closer to the lense you get! This is really a time when the front uv filter is there for protection from squashed bugs on the front element! Here is what a macro lens mount looks like.

Manfrotto 330B Macro Flash Bracket & Walimex Dual Flash Brackets

Personally, I tried and did not like this solution! There is a reason Canon and Nikon have extremely expensive dedicated macro flash units such as Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Flash (USD 700), or Nikon R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight Flash (USD 715). That reason is they are smaller, lighter, deliver the light where it is needed (just in front of the lens) and have ttl to prevent overexposure, because you don’t get a chance for a test shot!!!

  • Search eBay for macro flash brackets.
  • Search for Manfrotto 330B Macro Flash Bracket @ B&H, eBay.

Ring Flash or Dual Head Macro

Ring flashes work, the issue that we normally face is that they are fixed to the diameter of the mount! What happens when you what to mount that on a big front element? So the tool of choice is actually dual units like Canon MT-24EX Macro Twin Flash (USD 700), or Nikon R1C1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight Flash (USD 715). That reason is they are smaller, lighter, deliver the light where it is needed (just in front of the lens) and have ttl to prevent overexposure, because you don’t get a chance for a test shot!!!

YONGNUO YN24EX E-TTL Macro Flash Speedlite Light Dual Head

Fortunately, for Canon users, there are also the Yongnuo style solution such as the YONGNUO YN24EX E-TTL Macro Flash Speedlite Light Dual Head or Nissan. There are also several LED solutions, with light adjustable arms to position the light where you want it to be.

Search for YONGNUO YN24EX on eBay, Amazon, B&H

Nikon SB-R200 Wireless Remote Speedlight

Nikon SB-R200 Remote Flash
  • Designed to be used off-camera as a wireless slave flash, the SB-R200 is a compact speedlight that can be triggered by the SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander, CLS-compatible speedlights with commander modes, and the built-in flash of many Nikon DSLRs with iTTL support.
  • The SB-R200 is optimized for close-up photography due to its compact design and unique ability to be mounted directly to a lens via an optional adapter or placed around the subject with the included AS-20 Speedlight Stand. Also, its size and wireless capabilities make it a good option for general photography as well.
  • Supports i-TTL, D-TTL, TTL (film-based cameras), and manual control.
  • Offers a guide number of 33′ at ISO 100 and 46′ at ISO 200.
  • Provides coverage for 24mm lenses with a beam angle of 60° vertically and 78° horizontally.
  • The flash head can tilt downward 60° and tilt upwards 45° with click stops every 15°.
  • AF assist light with white LED for working in dim light.
  • Physical controls and a flash-ready light are present on the top of the unit.
  • The SB-R200’s wireless modes offers three groups and four channels.
  • Manual control from 1/1 to 1/128 power.
  • Has support for high-speed sync.
  • The recycle time at full power is approximately 6 seconds.
  • Flash duration of 3/5000 second.
  • Runs on one CR123A lithium battery which provides enough power for approximately 290 flashes.

Search for Nikon SB-R200 on eBay, Amazon, B&H

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