Another picture of pennywort flowers, I know. But they are very photogenic and make good subjects for macro photography. So let me tell you how this picture was taken.

This is my gear, the same that I had for the last 15 years, from the time when digital photography was all the hype and everyone wanted to be a photographer.


The Nikon D300, 105mm macro lens and the external flash would cost you around 350€ used today (disregard the 18-200m zoom lens). They work great together and can give very sharp and beautiful results.

There are however a few things to do before pressing the shutter release.

  • I use the internal flash in master mode to control the external flash. This makes lighting very flexible. I often hand-hold the flash 90-180 degrees from the sun because the goal is making the light less harsh by filling in the shadows.
  • The camera is set to shutter mode with the shortest flash-sync time dialed in, 1/250s in this case. This is because the flash needs to compete with the bright sunlight and the short shutter time lets less of that in.
  • Exposure compensation at -1/2 stops, flash -1 or -3/2 stops. The violet and highlights easily get saturated at default exposure. And we want the flash to be less bright than the sun, again just evening out the light somewhat but not completely flattening the scene.
  • The two previous points have a welcome side-effect: The camera needs to choose the largest aperture it can in the current light condition, thereby rendering the background very much out of focus.
  • Then I compose the image and focus, first auto-focus to get close, then I hold focus and put it at the right spot by moving the camera ever so slightly.
  • I take several pictures before moving on. Not all will be a success with this quick method, not using a tripod, and I rigorously throw away all but the best one in a series.

This way I usually get the picture that I had in mind with quite little effort.

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