Constructing a macro table top studio

Constructing a portable table-top macro studio

Living in a house with wood floorboards, I needed a solid base for macro photography. I found that when working at high magnifications even with the sturdiest tripod there was always some relative movement and vibration between my tripod and subject due to slight movement of the carpeted floor caused by me moving, or breathing, or earthquakes. This was not desirable when focus stacking a large number of images as it makes the images harder to align. The solution was to have camera and subject on the same solid platform. Any floor movement or vibration was therefore applied equally to subject and camera as they both firmly fixed to the same baseboard. Working distances vary from 18 cm to 2 cm so there was no need for anything large.

From a piece of 120 cm x 50 cm x 1.8 cm MDF board (B&Q £10) I cut the base (30 x 40) an addition layer (30 x 30) and 2 side walls (30 x 5). Screwing the sidewalls to the additional base layer then that to the larger base then marked a centre line.

An arca-swiss nodal rail was screwed to the base along the centre line then 2 small guide batons 5 cm either side of the centre line for a cantilever stage to slide back and forth on.


I finally fitted a 50 x 30 baton along the back of the base with a groove routed along its length. This was to slot an A4 clipboard for holding background papers. The resultant studio base is quite heavy and very solid. I used 30mm screws through out except for fixing the little guides.

From the images, you can see the Super-Mag macro-focusing rail mounted with an arca-swiss plate onto the nodal rail which was screwed to the base. Along the sidewalls I can mount clamped LED ring lights, as shown and a magic arm for holding the subject at various distances. Speedlites fitted with small soft boxes and remote triggers can be clamped to the rail if flash is required. Particularly useful if photographing live subjects and the short flash duration is required to freeze motion. In practice though I find using 3 LED ring lights like the one shown in the image, positioned one from the side, one more from the top, and one on the background gives me all the light I need for my dead  insects and small flora. The LED lights are all USB powered from a small hub at the side of the base. White or silver reflector cards can be easily positioned where needed.


MkII of this may be a bit wider with extra slots to move backgrounds closer (or I may just use another clamp) and some tracks to keep the cables tidy, but for now this works a treat and I’m experiencing no vibration issues at all. I am looking forward to trying out more extreme macro stacks with this set up.

The LED clamp lights, nodal rail and other bits and pieces I found on Amazon, where else?