How to Use Cheap LED Lights to Enhance Your Macro Photos

Speedlights, strobes, reflectors, filters, umbrellas, cables, and batteries. Lighting gear can certainly come with an expensive price tag. But it doesn’t always have to. In this video, Pye from SLR Lounge explains how to use cheap camping lights to enhance ring and macro shots:

Pye uses simple Grip 6-LED camo pocket lights to add highlights and dimension to his macro images. These particular lights are daylight balanced, resulting in a blue tone of light.

“They’re great lights for accentuating your rings or your details, or whatever macro type stuff you’re shooting… There are a million ways to use these guys.”

These lights are only $10 each and are an affordable and useful tool to add to your photo kit.

Tips To Enhance Your Macro Photography Using LED Lights

  • Place LED lights on either side of your subject. This will create full highlighted edges that will make your subject “pop.”
  • Place LED lights off to the left or the right to create interesting highlights on just one side of your subject.

Place the lights to one side of your subject to create interesting highlights and shadows.

  • Tuck your lights behind a sofa cushion, shining upwards against the back of the sofa. Place your subject close to the edge of the seat cushion. Shoot from a low angle to capture a beautiful light fall off in the background.
cheap led lights enhance macro photo

When placed behind a couch cushion, these LED grip lights create a beautiful glowing blue background.

  • Use the LED lights to bounce light off of reflective surfaces, like a glass table top or a shiny clutch. Use a reflective surface to add a mirror effect to your image.
cheap led lights enhance macro photo

Lights on either side create beautiful highlights against a woman’s clutch background and glass table top.

  • Try out lights with different color tones. Try using daylight balanced LED lights to mimic the look of a window in a room. Shine the lights from one side of the room to create highlights on one side of your subject. Try contrasting the light’s color with that of a room’s artificial lighting.

LED lights work well for accentuating portraiture, too.

  • Be resourceful and use what you have around you to create interesting backgrounds, bounce light around, or add context to an image.
  • Use putty to prop up objects in macro photography. It doesn’t leave residue and can be molded to stay out of sight.

Besides trying out these tips, practice and experiment on your own. Try using these LED lights in other forms of photography; they work great in portraiture. What’s your favorite cheap, portable light source?

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2 responses to “How to Use Cheap LED Lights to Enhance Your Macro Photos”

  1. Debbie says:

    Are there any LED lights that offer warm tones? Great info. Thank you

  2. When searching for LED lights (sometimes known as work lights, grip lights, or even flashlights) look for those with 5000kelvin or less to get warmer tones, try keyword: Warm White.

    5000k and over are considered cooler tones and blue-white tones are certainly easier to find in LED lights. You can also try changing your white balance settings (either using presets or manually changing in kelvin) to compensate for this as well! You may also try out a filter on your light source as well! Hope this helps!

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