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Macro photography for a trade stand

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Trade stand display poster macro photography

Photographing small components for a trade show display

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Recently, Torex Semiconductors (Europe) asked Keith if he could produce an ‘interesting’ image for posters at the Electronica show in Germany.

The poster needed to be printable at up to 2 metres by 3 metres with clear detail of the tiny electronic components and include items that would instantly give an indication of scale.

After some discussion and experimentation, we decided that the bright colours of ‘Gummi bears’ might work well, and at 20mm high, the size would be quite apparent.

This short article shows some of the setup used to produce the photo.

Macrophotography is one of the specialist areas of photography Northlight Images provides for our commercial clients.

Torex semiconductor trade stand

Small product photos – working with bears

One of the reasons for picking the jelly bears was that they come in bright colours and if suitably lit from behind give an interesting mix of lighting options.

Here are some of the extras got in for the shoot – several would vanish each time Karen visited the studio to check on the work…

Gummi bears waiting in reserve

The basic setup I’m using is a Canon 5Ds camera with the TS-E90mm tilt shift lens.

macro photography rig setup

The camera has a 50MP sensor, so I’m not concerned about the size of  print required.

The lens is just being used as a good quality 90mm lens, with the tilt and shift locked off.  I could use tilt to run the plane of focus along the small chips, but at this distance the thickness of the depth of field is tiny, and very obvious in a large print.

Whilst people use lens tilt to give a ‘miniature world’ look to images, I want just the opposite.

The flash is a Canon MT-20EX dual head macro flash, attached to the top of the camera with a short extension cord.

The camera needs to be closer than the 90mm will focus, so I’ve added a 31mm extension tube.

camera with extension tube

It’s a this point I think I’d like to see an updated version of the Canon 180mm macro lens…

The camera is mounted in portrait orientation, on a slide rail (for quick manual adjustment), which is itself on a Cognysis StackShot motorised slide rail, fitted to a solid pan head on the arm of a hefty studio stand.

This sounds a bit prone to slip, vibration and movement, but the key is the heavy duty studio stand.

macro camera support

The software controlling the movement of the camera is Helicon Remote, which allows me to set start and end points for the movement of the camera and takes photos along the way.

Once the shots are taken, I use Helicon Focus to stack the shots together – I’ve some more about this in the recent article I wrote about making your own telecentric macro lens.

Getting the bears in place

It takes quite a bit of fiddling round to get the bears lined up and to position the flash heads.

This is just like working in a much bigger studio – many of the considerations are the same, but your props are edible.

bears screen test

You can see just how narrow the depth of field is in this view – I want the area of sharpness to cover the whole of the circular area.

What’s the surface I’m shooting on?

It’s the top cover of a failed disk drive from one of our servers.

Macro photo setup - Bears around chips

I want to give the impression that the bears are gathered round a pond, looking at the strange things that have appeared, and wondering what to do…

I’m stepping from near to far focus points here, and will need some 25 shots to make a clean stack.

Stacked macro near and far shots

Note how the framing changes as the camera moves (the lens setup is not telecentric). Fortunately Helicon Focus can take care of this during the processing, but you do need to allow for this to differing degrees depending on lens choice and subject distances.

The finished photo of bears and the pool of chips

Anyway, here’s the finished version of the shot, as used for some of the display posters.


The cropped photo below gives an idea of the detail in the shot.

Detail of Torex chips in photo

The image was of high enough resolution for a brochure background.

brochure cover

If I was creating images just for this application, I’d use a different lens system, but you have to be careful when changing lenses, in that your viewpoint changes, and with that the perspective of the set of stacked shots. With practice you get a good feel for what to expect, but there is always a bit of experimentation required for work like this.  Quite a few of our jobs have started with “I don’t know if you could photograph this, but…”

Here’s one of the prints of the image produced for the trade show.


I believe that small packs of the bears were given away too…

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