Introduction: Macro Photo Stand

Picture of Macro Photo Stand

I use this photo stand to take photos of archaeological artifacts. This rig is copied from a store-bought unit I saw while working in Iceland. The archaeologists there added a glass base to rest the artifacts on. This allows you to take photos against various colored backgrounds which contrast the artifact’s color while keeping those backgrounds clean. I’m not a photography expert but I believe having the artifact “suspended” above the background helps a camera’s macro function to focus on the artifact.

There are a bunch of these photo stands on Instructables. I encourage you to check out The OMCC Stand (One More Camera Copy Stand ). It’s gorgeous!

I paid about $35 for all of the materials (not including tools) but I’m sure this could be done much, much cheaper using found materials.




Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

SUPPLIES
~ Steel Flat Bar 2” wide x 1/8” thick (the one I bought came in a 36” length but only 8 1/4” was needed).
~1/4” x 2” Neoprene washer
~ Threaded Rod ½” diameter x 36” length (cut in half)
~White Plastic Leg Tips, 1/2 In. (2)
~1/2” nuts (4)
~1/2” wing nuts (2)
~ 1/2” washers (6)
~ 1/4 in. nylon nuts and bolts (2 sets)
~1/4”-20 thumb bolt (1) [for the camera]
~1/4”-20 nuts (2 or 3)
~1” thick plywood 14” x 16”
~Rubber feet (I used screw on rubber bumpers for a shower stall door) (4)
~12” x 16” clear glass replacement glass (I got this from an arts and craft store)
~Felt backgrounds 12” x 16” (I got this from an arts and craft store)

TOOLS
~Drill
~Step drill bit (good for drilling metal)
~1/2” paddle drill bit
~1/2” & 1/4” & another smallish drill bit
~Countersink drill bit
~Center punch
~Dremel with grinding bit, reinforced cutting wheel
~2 adjustable wrenches
~Screwdriver
~Sandpaper
~Saw
~Vise
~Measuring tape
~Hole puncher
~Glue

Step 2: Put It All Together

Picture of Put It All Together

Constructing the Base
I found a nice piece of 1” plywood in my old man’s garage. After realizing my circular saw is piece of crap I ended up using one of his old hand saws and it was pretty amazing! Despite being ancient it cut almost as fast as the circular saw and the edge was quite a bit cleaner. The plywood I had was already sanded smooth on the top so I just sand the sides and bottom.

[Check out the drawing] Then I drilled two 1/2” holes along the 16” edge of the base for the threaded rods. Then I drilled four 1/4” holes for the nylon bolts which will hold up the glass. I countersunk the bottom of these holes and used the 1/2” paddle bit to countersink the top holes just deep enough for the nylon nuts to sit flush. Finally I attached the rubber feet to the bottom of the base.

Making the Boom
[See the green thing in the drawing] To figure out the length of the bracket to hold the camera I measured from the edge of base (between the two 1/2” holes) to the center of the base, subtracted the distance on my camera from the tripod mount to the center of its lens and then added 2”. For me this came out to 8.25”. That 2” addition is where you’ll be bending the bracket.

The flat bar of steel I had measured 36” in length. I cut it down to size using the cutting wheel on a Dremel and cleaned up the burrs using a grinding attachment. I center punched the holes and drilled them using the step drill bit (really useful for drilling holes in metal) and again grind the burrs out.

The steel bar seemed a bit beefy so I was worried I wouldn’t be able to bend it without a torch. I placed the steel in a vise and for one of the first times in my like my excess weight helped me out! Leaning into it I was able to get a decent bend creating a rounded-angled L shape.

With the extra steel I’m going to make a machete or a smallish Orc-sword!

Setting up the Column and Boom Adjustment
Using the Dremel cutting wheel I cut the threaded rod in half and cleaned up the burrs. Now I decided to go with two rods in order to keep the camera centered but I put them a bit close together and I ended up having to cut a bit off of the “wings” on the wing nuts that I planned to use to raise and lower the bracket. These nuts only go on one rod.

Bolting it All Together
Ok, so this is pretty self explanatory. At this point I bolted all this stuff together starting with the columns and ending with the nylon nuts and bolts (making sure they’re flush to the base). I tightened the column down hard until it was solid. I slipped one of the cut-down wing nuts, upside down, over one of the threaded rods, dropped down a washer and slipped the boom into the column. Then I dropped another washer and a right-side-up cut-down wing nut and tighten the boom down.

Final Stuff
So for the last part I used a hole punch to make some holes in the felt backgrounds. The idea is that those holes are for the nylon bolts to fit through. I glued a neoprene washer over the 1/4” hole to protect the camera’s finish and passed the thumb bolt through (with a few nuts behind it so I don’t damage the tripod mount by putting in a too-large bolt). Finally I popped two plastic caps on the ends of the threaded rods to finish them. The glass is simply rested on top of the ends of the nylon bolts.

Once you're ready to take a photo gently place your artifact on the glass (don’t forget a photo scale), attach your camera to the boom and snap some photos! I picked up a cheapish remote for my camera and it makes taking macro photos a bit easier as it keeps me from having to touch the camera which keeps vibrations down to a minimum.

Future Stuff
I’m thinking reworking the mechanism for adjusting the boom. The wing nuts are a bit slow. I also want to eventually add some lighting to the base on flexible booms.

Thanks for reading my first Instructable!

Comments

Light_Lab (author)2011-03-29

Hmmm.....threaded rods.........white plastic legs tips..........I really have a strong feeling of dejavu......{^_^}...

Copy-Stand-Cheap-and-easy-to-build

frankadelic (author)Light_Lab2011-03-30

Thanks for the comments. I don't think I saw yours before posting my Instructable but if it makes you feel better using the threaded rod was a bit of a mistake as it takes a long time to adjust the bracket. If I ever build another one of these I'd use a different setup.

Light_Lab (author)frankadelic2011-04-03

No foul, Instructables is all about getting ideas and often great minds think alike.
For me the threaded rods are perfect because I only adjusted the first time I set it up. (Perhaps the occasional tweak.) Since then I just let the camera auto focus do the work.
I guess in your case you would often vary the height to get different fields of view for different size artifacts.
I played around with one technique for quick movement on the threaded rods that works pretty well. Under the the sliding part I put a nut that was oversize (ie just big enough to slide up and down without turning.) I filed the top of the nut to be at an angle. When the weight of the sliding part rests on the nut it twists against the thread and locks. To adjust you just twist the nut to slide it up an down. For my purpose I decided that a more permanent setting was best so I abandoned the twisting nut.
I might put a diagram of the twisting nut idea on my design page so others can use it.

Light_Lab (author)2011-03-30

I really like the glass sheet idea, I might rig something like that for my stand.

Just a hint - unless the object you are photographing rolls easily (perhaps blue tack it?). Then put the sheet of glass on a slight angle ie. take the sheet of glass off two of the supports on one side. You will avoid photographing reflections of the camera that way (must be a real problem as is). I can see an outline in the sample shot.

BTW Which Nikon is that? 950, 990, 995?
BTBTW Is that a real artifact?  Obsidian arrow head, or tool?