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Recently I picked up a super cheap set of extension tubes for my camera and I've been getting into macro photography, especially that of my fine arachnid friends.

However, unless I'm just taking shots of them in their natural habitat, it's rather difficult for me to get them to sit still. I don't want to kill them, but it would be nice to have some kind of container that I can put them in to take photographs.

Unfortunately, glass jars while being readily available have pretty horrible optical quality. So do plastic bags, like this one:

juvenile black widow in a ziploc style bag

Is there any kind of equipment that I could use to contain an arthropod temporarily while I snap some shots of it? Preferably something that would let me take photos from top, bottom, and sides.

  • Just to clarify, is your goal more esthetic photo quality, or rather clearly detailed shots for identification purposes? – junkyardsparkle Oct 5 '16 at 21:58
  • here's a shot I took by taking the lid off of the container I had the spider in. I'm looking to get more photos like that. Also, at least to me, there's not really a huge difference between detail shots that can ID and more esthetic photos. I can still identify the fact that the spider above is a black widow, but it's not as sharp as I'd like. – Wayne Werner Oct 5 '16 at 22:16
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You could use something like a glass-bottom culture dish, which will provide better optical quality. Even then, the trick is to get the large amount of light required for macro shots into the container, and on the subject, without bouncing it off of the outside surface you're shooting through. This can require some creativity and experimentation. It's probably easier to avoid shooting through glass unless it's the only way to get a ventral view (and honestly, the easiest way to get a ventral shot of Latrodectus is to find a web in a low place, since they like to hang upside down).

If you're going as far as putting the critter in a jar, you may want to try refrigerating it for a short while, as many people who photograph arthropods do, in order to induce a temporary dormancy. You could then more easily photograph them outside of a container. I personally think it's more fun to try to photograph them where I find 'em, though.

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First, close the aperture (set to to 11-16) to get sharpness on larger inteval. Of course, now the images will be darker, shaked or noisier. So you'll need more light, much more light. Use an external flash. To avoid sharp transitions between light and dark areas use a diffuser for softening shadows. The best is to use one of the variants of so called macro flashes.

About the method of taking photo it is better to study the settings and use manual instead of automatic, also use manual focusing - it is achiveable in three ways: using focus, moving camera back and forth or using zoom if it is a zoom lens.

  • Yeah, with my full set of extension tubes (I think about 60mm of extensions) with my 40mm f/2.8 wide open I only get about 1/100s shutter speed at ISO100 in broad daylight. So f11 is dark. – Wayne Werner Oct 5 '16 at 22:23
  • You may try some DIY or cheap difussers for internal flash first and set ISO to a higher value (possibly your camera can take acceptable quality photo for macro even at ISO 800) – z100 Oct 5 '16 at 22:33
  • It's a Canon T5 - pretty high ISOs aren't too bad, especially with Darktable's profiled noise reduction. – Wayne Werner Oct 6 '16 at 0:19
  • if you have a cordless flash it is easy, otherwise the lens may create a shadow. You may also use additional light as led box... or go outside at the sun (here is an example of sun-lighted spider 500px.com/photo/162073881/still-waiting-by-florian-dubath) – floqui Oct 7 '16 at 15:07

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