by Johan J Ingles-Le Nobel
Last updated April 18, 2014
Extreme-macro.co.uk is a free learning site geared towards budget-conscious intermediate level 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, the types and techniques of lighting, studio equipment such as positioning stages and bellows, 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.... geared towards budget-conscious intermediate level photographers
The fact of the matter is that macro photography, and especially insect macro, 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 type of photography 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, and which will be built into a bespoke extreme macro workshop.
The macro photography principles, methods and equipment covered in this site are not just reserved for macro insect photography though. 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 onto 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 make extreme macro shots, 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 or if you just want to give macro stacking a try, have a look at buying the new Olympus TG-3 which does macro stacking in the camera (available summer 2014).
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.