In-Studio Macro Photography Tutorial

Macro photography is the art/practice of photographing tiny things. If you have the spare cash, It's easy to just go out and buy a macro lens to start shooting, but in order to get those crisp, back to front, pin-sharp images, a little bit of technical know-how and computer wizardry is essential.

There's something deeply alluring about high-quality macro photography, especially nature macro photography. We see these little creatures buzz and crawl past us every day, and most of us don't take a blind bit of notice, or worse; shriek and bat them away with a rolled up piece of paper. It's a shame that we treat them like this because when we take a closer look, there is great beauty in their variations of texture, color, and shape. Jumping spiders in particular, with their big dark eyes, are a favorite among nature macro photographers because of their variations mentioned previously, and likeness to a Pixar character.

In this video, commercial photographer and videographer, Martin Botvidsson, takes us through the process of capturing an extreme close up of a bee using a macro lens, artificial lights, and slider; then focus stacking multiple images taken at slightly different focal lengths, using Helicon Focus — you can download a free trial version here or just use Photoshop. For those of you drooling at Botvidsson's setup, I agree; life isn't fair.

But, if you would rather not wallow in self-pity, and just work within your means, not worrying about what other people use, it is quite affordable to get started in macro photography. For starters, while Canon's MP-E 65mm lens can capture amazing detail due to it's 1:5 magnification ratio, it's expensive and not very versatile. A slightly cheaper alternative is Canon's non-L series 100mm f/2.8 or Tokina's 100mm f/2.8 AF-D for Nikon users. If you don't want to spend any money on a new lens, why not turn your own lens back-to-front, like in this article? No, you don't need Profoto lights, either — any flash will do, but artificial light is needed because you'll need to shoot with a small aperture, like f/11 or f/16, when you're so close to your subject.

For some inspiration, please check out some of Fstoppers' very talented community members: Pierre Anquet and Liza Rock.

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12 Comments

Burt Johnson's picture

What a painfully TERRIBLE video to watch! He doesn't seem to really have a clue of what he is doing, or what the alternatives are. No idea why you thought this was actually worth FStoppers post. YUCK!

The one positive thing (I did have to skip forward to avoid most of his blather, and then stopped early because it was SO HORRIBLE to watch) was his use of the slider. I got one recently, and had not thought of applying it to this purpose.

Of course, that was a 10 second statement. No need to make us suffer 10 minutes for that one tiny bit of idea...

C Fisher's picture

This is why I always read the comments first lmao, thanks for the heads up!

Rob Mitchell's picture

No, that's not working as a good post, is it. I think that video could actually put people off dong studio macro.

Terry Waggoner's picture

If you're interested in super macro..........really interested..............avoid this video..........Martin appears to be a nice guy but by his own admission he's doesn't shoot extreme macro and has been misinformed on how to go about it..........

Gion-Andri Derungs's picture

There are also Laowa Macro Lenses. These are very good, for a really good price. The newest one is a 100mm f2.8 2:1 macro lens...

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Martin is a great guy, and I often finds his videos entertaining, the use of the slider is creative, but there are of course better systems and rigs for high mag. macro work.

C Fisher's picture

Hmmm I always thought the slider was the best method, maybe it's a good thing I didn't buy one yet! Care to tell a poor girl what the better system is? lol

Paul Lindqvist's picture

The best method for what?

For high magnification macro, where precision is key a slider is not the best method nor is it REALLY utilized as only a fraction of the slider is used.

Apart from the lack of precision the way the stack is calculated and the camera is triggered is far from optimal as well. (triggering the camera manually while the slider moves continuously)

So what is better?

A macro rail that moves the camera with a much higher precision but also with a controller that will do the stacking for you in an SMS mode. (Shoot move shoot)

So a macro rail with a stepper motor with a dedicated controller will do this with much better precision but also way more consistently.

With such system, you simply enter the in point and out point, put in how many frames you want and the controller will calculate the stack for you and spread the frames evenly across the focus range. (the in and out the point you set)

You will also be able to control the pace, which means you can set a downtime so that the strobes can recharge and let the cameras mirror settle etc.

For example, say you stack 40 images and on image 25 one of your strobes misfires for whatever reason.

Now you can simply tell the system to reshoot frame 25 and the rail will move back into the exact same position for frame 25 and retake the shot.

Hope that answer your question.

Laughing Cow's picture

Is it a video about macro or a video about "how to fall asleep in less than 3 minutes"?

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Maybe not everyone's cup of tea, but I often find Martin's videos entertaining and I like his unscripted approach. .-)

Robby MacGillivray's picture

Note.....half the world is in Winter ;)

Laughing Cow's picture

Yes, but this half counts less :p