Regardless of what you like to photograph, you’ll need the right tools for the job. In order to capture the intricate details of macro subjects, I utilize the combination of a powerful and lightweight camera system, specialized optics, and various diffusion materials. Here, you’ll see what gear I use and learn a bit about each item. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.
For my style of photography, three pieces of equipment are essential — a camera, a lens, and a flash. The compact size, powerful image stabilization, and durable build of the Olympus system make it my preferred system for macro.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II
Since 2017, I have been shooting with the E-M1 Mark II. Besides beautiful image quality, this camera is super compact, weathersealed, has amazing IS, and allows greater depth of field than traditional DSLRs.Order from Olympus
Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro
This tiny (3-inch-long) lens is capable of producing some outstanding output. It has a focus limiter, 1:1 shortcut switch, and like my camera body, it’s weathersealed. You can even use it for non-macro situations such as portraiture!Order from Olympus
Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO
While not really a “macro” lens, the 40-150 (80-300 FFE) has a short working distance that yields ≈1:4 magnification. This lens is perfect for grabbing shots of skittish subjects such as butterflies or dragonflies.Order from Olympus
Godox/Flashpoint TT350o Mini Thinklite
This inexpensive and compact flash unit is specifically made for use with Olympus and Panasonic cameras. Although it isn't weathersealed, it’s easy to use, has decent recycle time, and uses just two AA batteries.Order from Adorama
Like most photography enthusiasts, I want to make sure my gear is protected, organized, and easy to access. I have fallen in love with Peak Design and use a bunch of their gear. Peak has developed a fantastic lineup of bags and accessories with lifetime warranties on every product they make!
Peak Design 20L Everyday Backpack (V1)
I bought this backpack in 2017 and use it nearly every day. It’s a camera bag, it’s a computer bag, and it’s even been a diaper bag. The attention to detail and quality are immediately noticed (and appreciated).Order (V2) from Peak
Peak Design Medium Camera Cube
Although I keep commonly-used gear in my backpack at all times, I often want to bring along non-macro lenses or extra gear. This cube keeps everything safe and tidy. I can even attach my Slide Lite to carry the cube like a bag!Order from Peak
Peak Design Cuff
This wrist loop is one of my favorite accessories. The Cuff attaches and detaches via Peak’s patented anchor links, can convert to a bracelet when not attached, and will automatically cinch down if you drop your camera.Order from Peak
Peak Design Slide Lite
When I’m on longer walks or want to let go of my camera for a while, I switch from the Cuff to the Slide Lite. This neck strap is easily adjusted and also connects to my camera with Peak’s versatile anchor links.Order from Peak
Peak Design Tech Pouch
This is where all of the ‘extras’ get stashed. My Tech Pouch is always loaded with a phone charger, disposable AA batteries, random adapters, and whatever else I think might come in handy while traveling.Order from Peak
Honsky SD Card Case
This splash resistant SD and microSD card case isn’t made by Peak, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great accessory. At just $9, it’s a cheap and effective way to keep tabs on (and protect) your spare memory cards.Order from Amazon
Quality light may just be the most important component for producing a successful photograph. When using a flash to illuminate the details of small subjects, it’s important to direct and soften your light while avoiding excessively dark shadows or overly bright hot spots. I typically shoot with a shoe-mounted flash and use the following materials to diffuse its light.
Recently, this has been my diffuser of choice. It’s a handmade, single-layer diffuser that does a wonderful job. If you’re interested in purchasing a diffuser from Brendan/Cygnus, pop over to Instagram and give him a shout.DM @cygnustech to order
Homemade Softbox Diffuser
After extensive research and discussion with experienced shooters, I designed and built this one myself. The box is made of cardboard and lined with aluminum foil, the face is white nonwoven fabric, and the whole thing is held together with gaff tape.
Secondary Foam Diffuser
Used on its own or in conjunction with my homemade softbox, this layer of 3/8" packing foam is attached to the end of my lens with elastic and can be easily moved to various angles or shaped to wrap around my subject.
Beyond the standard gear, there are a few other pieces that I rely upon while producing macro images. Although they may seem somewhat miscellaneous, the items in this category can be really helpful.
Olympus Tough TG-6
This little go-anywhere, do-anything camera is waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, and crushproof...but it isn't just for underwater and adventure shooting. It also has some awesome macro functions that yield incredible magnification, features a high-speed F2.0 lens, and even produces raw files!Order from Olympus
Olympus M.Zuiko 1.4x Teleconverter MC-14
The MC-14 is placed between the camera body and the 40-150mm PRO lens to extend reach (112-420mm FFE). Since it doesn’t increase the minimum focusing distance, the MC-14 gives a slight magnification boost over the lens on its own.Order from Olympus
When I’m looking for extra magnification of the smallest (and most cooperative) subjects, I’ll sometimes attach this Raynox adapter to my 60mm macro lens. The adapter can be quickly attached or removed by using a 46mm to 43mm step ring.Order from B&H
Fotga Extension Tubes
Extension tubes are an inexpensive way to get more magnification out of any lens. These Fotga tubes will do the trick, but they sometimes lose connection. Since I don’t shoot with tubes particularly often, they’re good enough for my needs.Order from Amazon
Olympus EP-13 Large Eyecup
While there's nothing really wrong with the E-M1 Mark II's EP-12 (stock) eyecup, I find this slightly-oversized eyecup to be a bit more comfortable. It also seems to help block more sunlight from the periphery.Order from Olympus
Panasonic Eneloop Pro AA Batteries
These rechargeable batteries come with their own charger and keep my flash firing. Since the TT350o only uses two batteries, this 4-pack gives me two sets. That said, I like to keep some disposable AAs in my bag, just in case.Order from Amazon
SanDisk Extreme PRO SD Cards
These 95MB/s read, 90MB/s write memory cards are a nice balance of price, performance, and reliability. They aren’t the fastest cards on the market, but for my shooting style, I’ve never (knock on wood) run into any issues.Order from Amazon
Software and Apps
Once my photos are captured, it’s time to finish them on my phone or computer. If I’m traveling and/or want to share right from the field, I’ll simply process images on my iPhone. For more complex edits or focus stacking, I’ll sit down at the computer.
This is where the most of my photo finishing happens. I’ll modify composition, tweak color, push shadows and highlights, address noise, etc. It's awesome to seamlessly bounce between the traditional desktop solution and what has become a robust mobile solution.Get Lightroom
I’ve been a (very) frequent Photoshop user for over twenty years. I’m probably more comfortable in PS than in any other program. Even so, I prefer to process in Lightroom. Typically, I only go into PS for very specific retouching or manual stacking.Get Photoshop
OI.Share is Olympus’ remote control and wireless transfer app. I use it almost every time I shoot. I love being able to capture an image, import it to my phone, process on my phone, and share directly to social media.Download OI.Share
PicsArt Photo Studio
PicsArt is a photo editor, collage maker, and social network, but I don’t use it for any of those purposes. I only use PicsArt for one thing: Adding my watermark/logo to photos that I've processed on my phone.
UPDATE: As of November 2020, graphical watermarks can be added via LR Mobile!
Helicon Soft Helicon Focus
If you're interested in focus stacking, I highly recommend trialing Helicon Focus. Although Photoshop can get the job done, HF is significantly faster, has multiple rendering methods, and lets you easily fine tune your results.Download Helicon Focus