IKEA lighting hack for macro photography (+ some pics)


24 Jul 2013
Like most you whom have dabbled with macro photography knows, adequate and good lighting is essential to get low shutter times (=sharp pictures of moving targets) and a decent depth of field. Most of you most likely also knows is that good lighting is *very* expensive :)

I have made an IKEA hack that I want to share with you that I find works pretty decent. Its based around two things where one of them has a dual purpose outside macro photography.

A handheld stabilizer for cameras (~9£ incl. shipment - good for shooting videos too):

And a series of flexible LED light from IKEA (£10 each):

The stabilizer is actually pretty fun just on its own. It makes it much more easy to shoot videos of you tank. It helps when doing 'fly-by's' or situations where you want to pan/rotate/zoom concurrently as the stabilizer, well, stabilizes, while you can concentrate on the other actions.

On top of that you need some thin white diffusing material. I used some white plastic garbage bags but you can use whatever to diffuse the light. The idea is that you mount the LED lights on the arm of the stabilizer and then you adjust the LEDs to hit the focus area of the camera without creating any reflections on the aquarium glass. The white plastic helps create soft natural light without sharp shadows. And by hitting the target from different angles there is virtually no sharp shadows to begin with.

When fastening the LEDs to the stabilizer it makes sense to mount the camera in a wrong 90 degree angle so the stabilizer bar becomes a lightning rack instead. Here is some pictures of the setup:

14820881230_cfaeed6cfb_o.jpg20140822_221305 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr
14820904928_f0f9d2fe07_o.jpg20140822_221335 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr

I have shot the following pictures with that setup and my Olympus OM-D E-M5 with an Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens.

Besides basic cropping for composition all the pictures here below are shot with that setup, 100% handheld, and are totally untouched JPG's straight from the camera. No post processing and adjusting afterwards at all besides cropping:

15007095042_5b940a2c63_o.jpgHatchet3 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr
15004399411_de45199bd0_o.jpgHatchet1 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr
14820765939_e1cb9149ed_o.jpgHatchet2 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr
15007512695_b35fcd66f2_o.jpgAmano2 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr
14820903608_5763d2ce72_o.jpgAmano1 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr
15004407171_60da39d9b5_o.jpgGreen2 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr
15007120802_af77b93846_o.jpgGreen1 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr
15007460185_4dc63fcfee_o.jpgOtto2 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr
14984487956_8fc37c6637_o.jpgOtto1 by sendposttiltimpics, on Flickr

Enjoy! :)
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24 Jul 2013
I can't recommend that macro lens enough. It is one of my favorite lenses. And it doubles as a prime 60 mm (120 mm equivalent in 35 mm system) for portraits and a general medium telephoto lens. The focus could be a little faster but with good lightning and the right focus interval setting its great and super fun! Sharpness is really great too.


24 Jul 2013
Very nice hack!
What ISO and f value can you use with this ?
When doing macro without of tripod on moving targets I can go as high as 3200 ISO. You can find some review of the E-M5 on the net where you can see where the noise kicks in. As you can see in those reviews and on my pictures noise is not an issue at 3200 ISO. And I haven't even cleaned them up yet in some software yet.

The camera is stabilized internally so the rule that you have to set the shutter time to under 1/[mm of lens] is too conservative for this camera. That would indicate 1/120 seconds to go handheld. But you can have the shutter open a bit longer than that unless it is a fast moving fish. With that in mind the F value will be everywhere from ~4-6 and all the way up to ~10 (only when the target is fully lit with the aquarium light too). The Micro Four Thirds standard is naturally blessed with a bigger depth of field compared to the 35 mm format so that helps too.

What could be better? When the E-M5 came out it had the fastest auto focus in the world on static targets. But I'm buying the E-M1 hopefully before long that has even better auto focus that is ultra fast at moving targets too. Don't get me wrong, the E-M5 focus is great, I'm just getting greedy ;)

And the next time I'm stopping by IKEA I'm getting 2-3 more of the LED's. That will help even more on ISO, shutter and F value
26 Jul 2016
Interesting concept, I have managed to get decent macro shots with just a speedlight flash mounted onto my mk1 canon 7d, yet to play around with extra lighting off the camera.

IMG_0119 by Colm Doyle, on Flickr

IMG_0110 by Colm Doyle, on Flickr

IMG_0108 by Colm Doyle, on Flickr

IMG_0003 by Colm Doyle, on Flickr

IMG_9830 by Colm Doyle, on Flickr

IMG_9798 by Colm Doyle, on Flickr