Macro Photography Bug Stage

bee on flower

Green Sweat Bee

My area of focus in photography changed a few years ago toward macro photography.  It seemed that photographing bugs and flowers might allow me to escape the crowds and all-too-popular iconic sites of landscape photography.  An early step in this process was to build a bug stage allowing for easier placement of the bugs, lights, flashes and my camera.

The Very Basics of Macro Photography

I have written four blogs about my macro photography efforts.  My goal was to provide photographers with some basic information, document my learning curve and provide regular readers some photos of my early work.  Here is one such blog:  Macro Photography Blog from 2021.  For some inexplicable reason, I never posted my attempt at a humorous video showing how I built my first bug stage for macro photography.  When getting very serious about photographing bugs at 5  or 20 times life size, one does not wander through the forest looking for bugs.  The bugs are dead, cleaned in an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner contraption, mounted on special very thin pins and posed in front of the camera.  Next you need to add strong lighting.  All of this is made much easier when you have a cage or platform built to help create the right scene for these high magnification photos.  It also saves time and consternation when setting all these electronics on the dining room table at dinner time.


The Problem of a Narrow Depth of Field

I’m certainly not going to rehash all of the many technical macro issues of macro photography here.  However, I need to explain the major problem photographers face when creating high magnification photos a very shallow depth of field.  This will help you understand what you are seeing in the video below.  Sometimes the area of the bug in clear focus is less than the thickness of a hair.  This small slice of depth of field can be compared to a loaf of sliced bread.  Each slice of bread represents that small area of the bug in focus.  Therefore, the photographer takes 20 photos, on the low end, to many hundreds of photos of the bug.  These photos are then laboriously combined into one in-focus photo by means of various software.  The process seldom goes smoothly.

My purpose of explaining this now is to help you understand the photos in this short 2 1/2 minute video.  You are seeing some individual narrow depth of field photos which eventually get combined into a single, in-focus bug photo.

Each slice is the in focus area of the bug

Each slice of bread represents an in-focus part of the whole bug.

How to Build a Macro Photography Stage

So here is the video where I build my first macro photography cage.  The camera club I belong to has an annual event in December where we show some of our work for the year.  This video was my submission a few years back.  I’ve since built another bug cage and have changed my equipment, but you will still get the basic idea of what is involved.


Equipment for Serious Macro Photography

There are two companies I’m aware of that make the necessary equipment for high quality macro photographs.  One is Cognisys of Traverserse City, MI  and the other one is more of the Rolls Royce of the industry NovoFlex a German company.  Happy shopping.


Recent Macro Photos

Regretfully, I’ve not yet really dedicated myself to macro photography.  I still listen to the blogs of Allan Walls a dedicated macro photographer and teacher.  He is well worth a visit should any photographers wish to dip their toes into the macro photography world.

Here is a bee captured in my back yard, possibly an Ivy Bee.  There are 20,000 kinds of bees and I’m supposed to know which bee this is?  This bee has dirty bits about the arms and antennae, as I have yet to give an insect a bath in the ultrasonic jewelry cleaner purchased for that purpose.  Always more to do and always more to learn.  It is a good situation to be in for retirement.

8 thoughts on “Macro Photography Bug Stage

  1. Amazing, and only in 11 stiches can one individual make a grasshopper looked extremely stressed out.
    Incredible work and a nice accomplishment.

    • Somehow my email no longer tells me when I get a comment. I was as distressed as that grasshopper without a comment from you. Thank you for your continued interest, Louis.

  2. Oh Harold, you have outdone yourself on this blog. I can’t believe how much effort you put into building your bug cage, let alone making the video documenting it! So clever! I’m sure you’ll get many years of endless joy with this contraption and the newer version. Good for you. I do love the macro bug thing you’re into. Much more interesting than flowers! Ha! Very enjoyable read. Thanks again for sharing your wit and talent.

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