• Extreme macro focus stacking, for high impact images of the very smallest of beautiful things
Extreme macro focus stacking, for high impact images of the very smallest of beautiful things1 2 3

Extreme-Macro.co.uk

by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated August 31, 2017

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Extreme-macro.co.uk is a free learning site by macro photographer Johan J. Ingles - Le Nobel geared towards budget-conscious intermediate level macro photographers who want to know how to do extreme macro photography and the equipment that we use.

Extreme-macro.co.uk covers the lenses and objectives we use, the photography techniques to use them, types and styles of lighting, specialist macro equipment such as positioning stages and bellows, useful software for stacking and postprocessing and general insect curation techniques used in 1:1 to 20:1 range of field and studio macro photography, with a particular emphasis towards focus stacking.

Macro Photography

... this site is geared towards budget-conscious intermediate level photographers

The fact of the matter is that macro photography, and especially macro photography of insects, is one of the most popular types of photography around. A lot of macro photographers want to move onto extreme macro focus stacking - but they don't really know where to start. I had much the same problem; useful information about this photography niche is scattered on the four corners of the Internet in some of its more obscure alleyways. By putting this site together I hope to make it easier for folks like myself, who had a lot of questions when they started out. I personally have lots of questions left myself and there's plenty more information to come in due course.

The macro photography principles, methods and equipment covered in this site are not just reserved for macro insect photography. They will be useful for photography of minerals, dental, medical and scientific photography, coin photography and general commercial closeup and macro photography of small objects such as jewellery as well.

Extreme Macro: First Steps

Moving high magnification closeup and extreme macro photography can be overwhelming and expensive by making uninformed equipment choices. In terms of first steps, in order of difficulty and expense: to do extreme macro, move on from standard 1:1 magnification macro into more extreme macro by using close-up Raynox lenses first because they give you nice in-camera control.

Then, if greater magnification is for you (ie approx. between 1:1 and 5:1), consider taking the next step in your extreme macro photography by doing some reverse lens macro: with reversed old 35mm enlarger lenses on a simple Velbon stage, with a set of bellows and a DIY diffused flash unit for indoor work, or a diffuser on a bracket or ringflash with a focusing helicoid for outside work. This is the time to download a Zerene Stacker trial and try some macro focus stacking.

Beyond this, look towards an infinite objective on a tube lens, driven by an electronically controlled stacking stage such as a Cognysis Stackshot Stacker. Of course, depending on the equipment you already have, other routes like stacking two lenses will also work for you if you have them, but the sequence above is probably a reasonable progression path for most people both in terms of cost and in terms of picking up gradual know-how.

Focus Stacking Walkthrough

1 ➤ The focus stacking workflow

2 ➤ How to prepare a focus stack

3 ➤ How to shoot a focus stack

4 ➤ Software tools for focus stacks

5 ➤ Postprocessing tools for focus stacking

Focus Stacking

A tried and tested focus stacking workflow designed to create high resolution in-focus images with a depth of field infinitely larger than is possible with a single image. The most standard technique used for extreme macro.

Macro Calculators

... macro calculators are never as accurate as real-world measurement

Extreme-macro.co.uk also hosts a number of macro calculators relevant to the macro photographer. Macro photography calculators are never as accurate as real-world measurement, but do come close to giving the correct values, so should act as a useful guideling for image shoot preparations. The focus stack step size calculator gives you safe step sizes for stacking, and the stacked lens calculator gives you the resulting magnification when combing two lenses. The extension tube magnification increase and working distance calculator is very similar to the bellows magnification increase and working distance calculator and both concern themseves with magnification and working distance. In addition to these, extreme-macro.co.uk also hosts a reversed lens calculator, a microscopy na to f/stop calculator and infinite objective focal length calculator, Raynox calculator and the broadly similar closeup lens calculator.


Comments (53)

Article: extreme-macro.co.uk
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Stan Fraser says...
I'm pleased the expense of this hobby was mentioned but then more affordable options were shown. It showed that macro photography skills and equipment can be built up slowly,
13th December 2017 9:46am
Constant Xarax says...
Many wide-angle macro pictures stitched together ? I wonder if the following makes any sense: Shoot many ( say, 100 ) wide-angle macro photos, each of a different 1/100 of the frontal area of the object, and stitch them together to create one compound image - with much less perspective distortion than a single picture taken from a close distance with a wide angle lens, and much deeper depth of field than a single picture taken with a telecentric lens. You only have, for each shot, to translate the camera horizontally and vertically a little bit ( say, 1mm ), keeping the axis of the lens parallel to itself ( or, equivalently, you have to translate the object itself horizontally and vertically by the same distance ).
7th December 2017 8:17pm
Harold Gough says...
"much less perspective distortion than a single picture taken from a close distance with a wide angle lens, and much deeper depth of field than a single picture taken with a telecentric lens".

I don't think that will work in practice. DOF is a function of aperture and magnification and nothing else. It is the same whether taken as a single shot or combined from many.
13th December 2017 7:29am
Constant Xarax says...
Perhaps the syntax of this sentence was not as simple/clear as it might/should have been. In other words, what I propose is this : With, say, a full frame camera, take a single photo of an object of a 24mm x 36mm frontal area, with a wide angle lens, from a close distance. How close a distance ? Close enough to fill the frame of the picture ( the frame of the film or of the sensor ) with the image of the object. You have a deeper depth of field, than if you take the same shot, now with a big enough telecentric lens, from ANY distance. How big a telecentric lens ? Big enough to cover the frontal area of the object. The advantage of the telecentic lens is the absence of any perspective distortion ( since an image taken with a telecentric lens corresponds to an orthographic projection ), and the disadvantage is the shallower depth of field. On the other hand, the advantage of the wide angle lens is the deeper depth of field, but the disadvantage is the perspective distortion.
13th December 2017 3:20pm
Sanjay says...
Thanks for building this website. I just started dwelling more into macro photography and this website is a breath of life. One question I have is how you folks are able to get such sharp images of insects especially when they keep moving around? Are these images of dead ones?
17th November 2017 7:32pm
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