Extreme Macro Holding Tools

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


It's just one of those things, you'll need to have some widget or tool to hold up your diffusion or reflector in the field but there is a dearth of dedicated product for this purpose out on the market.

So we make do, and repurpose other objects to achieve our goal. There are a couple of ways I go about it myself, but no doubt there are plenty of other (better!) ways.


Plamp, a nice strong holding tool, made from Loc-line modular flexible arm material. The "spring clamp" jaws do a great job at attaching the thing to a tripod for use outside. Plamps are very useful to hold reflectors as well -- clamping a Plamp to the tripod is a good way of transporting it between potential subjects if you're using them for field macro.


Yes, it has a bit of a weird name, but it's a product that works really well. I have a couple: they hold up my diffusion inside in the studio and they keep windblown grass still when I'm working outside.

A plamp consists of a couple of large graspers with flexible tubing in between. You can shape the tubing so it's very convenient to be able to hold things in all sorts of different rotations and shapes.

Plamps have very strong graspers but to hold diffusion I often use a clear binder folder cover to back the diffuser onto to keep it stretched out over the specimen in the parabola shape that I like. They're very useful to hold reflectors as well, and wind shields outside.

Plamp II

Wimberley sent me a Plamp II to review, and it's a definite improvement on the basic plamp of yesteryear. The Plamp II has a better strong clasper bolt so it doesn't come loose, a sensitive fine head to clasp the stem, a flexible stake accessory that can bolt it in the ground rather than on a tripod leg and a fine head attachment that's easier to adjust than just the original head on the flexible tubing.

Helping Hand

A helping hand is a cheap little holding tool used in soldering that you can buy from any DIY or electronics hobbyist shop.

Helping Hand

A helping hand repurposed from the world of soldering to the world of photography. A cheap and cheerful diffuser holder, but you can of course also use one of these to mount your specimens. The rotation joints at the ends are a bit fiddly to adjust mid-flow, and I removed the magnifying glass as it just gets in the way.

The average helping hand usually has a couple of crocodile clips attached on a frame-like structure, so it can be used to support things like polystyrene cups if you use those for your extreme macro diffusion, as I do.

Some helping hands also have a magnifying glass or soldering iron holder, but you can usually disassemble the things to remove the bits you don't need.

The helping hands I've seen are all made out of bright shiny metal so you'll have to watch out for reflections.

The other thing to watch is that they sit on a small foot and manoeuvring the helping hand on your macro stage isn't always the easiest thing to do. For me it's a useful backup nowadays and I do sometimes use it to see what I'm doing when I'm spreading insects, but it used to be the only holding hand thing I used until I got plamps.