• 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 20, 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

Other reading: specimen preparation walkthrough

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 (45)

Article: extreme-macro.co.uk
Luke C says...
Hi, I've been doing macro for just under two years now, and I still love it. It took a lot of learning practice to (eventually) get decent results. I wish I knew this site existed when I was just starting! Fantastic site. I have a question. I'm hoping to get closer, more into the extreme macro range, or just as close as I can haha. It's the time of the year where everything outdoors is dying out, although I'll still do a little hunting around out there. I was wondering what other subjects you would recommend for shooting indoors at the extreme macro range? Be it alive or just an object. Thanks! Luke
22nd November 2013 4:19pm
Johan says...
Hello Luke! Depends on just how close you intend to get, but in the wintertime butterfly wings bought from eBay make for a really decent subject, especially the stunning Madagascar sunset moth. Another fun thing to try is just unusual perspectives of veggies and flowers bought from the supermarket - this broccoli macro was a lot of fun to do when I was bored and in the same situation myself. Good luck!
22nd November 2013 4:32pm
Luke C says...
Thanks Johan! Buying wings is such a good idea. Again, thank you for the advice. Luke
22nd November 2013 4:58pm
Harold Gough says...
I am responding to the idea of "getting closer". I suspect that you really want to achieve higher magnification. Yes, with a given lens this means getting closer. However, short working distances make approach to e.g. live insects difficult and issues of betting lighting on the subject arise at very close distances. The chacteristices of various lenses, in particular focal length, mean that a longer focal length, for a lens of similar design, will give the same magnification at a longer distance.

The downside of longer focal lengths includes the need to put longer extension behind them if you are using tubes.
22nd December 2013 11:51am
Charlotte says...
Great stuff Johan, exactly what the web needs. All the Best, Charlotte
21st November 2013 8:30pm
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