Creating a Table Top Studio for Macro Photography

June 29, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

One of my real joys in photography is creating macro images. Armed with several different size macro lens I can often be found searching the woods behind my home and my yard for macro subjects. And although my neighbors may think I am a bit off, I have been known to run around my yard and neighborhood armed with a butterfly net. Even killing bugs inside my house is forbidden! Capture alive and unharmed, photograph, and release back into the wild, often to the questioning eye of my wife.

So, once I had the critter / flower / small object to photograph the next problem was how to accomplish creation of decent images. I realized that photographing a flower of bug posed the same basic challenges as any studio shoot. One needs a space of appropriate size, proper and controllable lighting for the space, a way to stage and / or "pose" the subject, and an appropriate background. (And of course, a camera and tripod.) All this, but on a much smaller scale. Thus began my quest for a Macro Photography Table Top Studio.

My first task was to find a decent size, preferably folding, table. I picked up a "cheap" wooden TV tray table at the local Walmart for $14. The table is about 24' x 14' in size. Then I was off to Home Depot for a 30' x 24' piece of flat sheet metal (About $22.) Using Liquid Nail, I attached the sheet metal to the wooden table top, lining up one long edge to the front edge of the table (See photo below.) I placed books on top and clamped the edges and waited for it to set.


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While I waited I started the search on line for the "gear" I would need to hold and light objects. I had chosen the sheet metal top because I was getting light holders and specimen clips that had magnetic bases, and I wanted freedom to move them around on the table as necessary. These items are available on Amazon.com at very reasonable cost. To hold objects and stage them, I got a "Third Hand" kit, normally sold for use in electronics repair. I also purchased two magnetic base LED flashlight holders for lighting. For lights I picked a set of LED flashlights that are rated at 3000 lumens (I would recommend at least 1000 lumens) that had rechargeable batteries with a charger. I also added a small clip on UV light.

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Note that I wrapped the edge of the sheet metal with painter's tape. Be careful! That metal sheet can be sharp!

When attaching the sheet metal to the table top I was careful to line it up so that the table could still be folded flat. When not in use, it can be leaned against the wall or placed in a closet out of the way. Here are a few shots of the final product in use.

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Macro Photography is both a challenge and a great deal of fun. It can also yield real "art" if carefully pursued. I highly recommend giving it a try. There are a huge number of resources available on line for those wishing to learn. My favorite professional Macro photographer is Don Komarechka in Canada. Famous for his individual snowflake images, his work is breathtaking and he freely shares how he accomplishes his magic. In fact he just published what is the best (my opinion) complete book on macro called "Macro Photography: The Universe At Our Feet" which is available at his website: https://www.donkom.ca/ He also has a GREAT podcast that comes out almost every week called "Photo Geek Weekly" at: https://photogeekweekly.com/ I highly recommend checking his work and podcast out.

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