How to make macro photos for your flies- Part 1

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I decided to start this tutorial about “how to make macro photos for your flies” because I receive almost every week questions on forums or via email about how I make my photos and what cams I use. Some considered that the success of my photos or the good quality is due to my cameras but it’s not like this. If you know how to use a compact camera you can make fantastic photo, better than a medium DSLR user.
I started making photos of my flies more than 10 years ago. I was impressed by Hans Wielemann photos (by the way he used a compact camera for his photos! ) and I wanted to make a small database of traditional Romanian flies. Back in 2000 it was very difficult but I had a lot of fun in my first years. I remember that I started using a compact camera – a Kodak with a 10xlens. I used different DYI light systems plus build-in flash system. My first photos were ugly with incorrect white balance. However, working a lot and reading about photography helped me to become a better macro photographer. I used different desk lights and different types of bulbs from incandescent types to led and quartz types. I saved some money and now I’m working using DSLR cams with external flashes because it’s faster and better than using continuous lights . I ended using pro solutions because I don’t have time for DYI and DSLR cameras help you to make better photos easier. But without any experience and hours and hours spent in making photos a DSLR camera is useless.
I use also a Sony mirrorless camera which is lighter , faster and it has a great and big sensor. I don’t use fancy studio setting. For my backgrounds I use simple A4 or A3 white paper and the light system is composed of 3 synchronized diffused flashes. The light system can be substituted very easy these days by 3 desk lamps with white light bulbs.
My conclusion is that in Macro photo, especially when we talk about macro photos for flies, the most important rule is to obtain diffused white light. Without this, everything is a nightmare. So  the first step is to use a soft box.
I use a soft box, a very “fancy one” made of an used cartoon box. You can buy a soft box ready made from a specialized shop starting with 100eur but in my opinion it’s better to make one like mine because it costs you only a cartoon used box and a few white papers, and the effect is the same.
For example, I used below a cartoon box and I stick inside A4 white papers.


Afterwards, I made a big hole in the upper part and I covered it with white paper too:



Sometimes I use an extra continuous light from the top and that’s why I made the hole. Those who want to use desk lights can make similar holes on sides in the same manner.

For background I used an A3 white paper but  an A4 white paper would be fine as well.


You can see that there are no shadows. If I had used a direct light focused on the object the shadow would have appeared:

For this reason it’s better to use diffused light and reflected light.

In my opinion the best backgrounds in tying time is blue. An A4 blue paper is perfect because all colors can be seen on this background.


In the next article I will share with you my experience with lighting and using the camera.

You can see here the Part 2 of this article about making macro photo for your flies

  • Lindsay Simpson
    October 14, 2015

    Hi Lucian,
    I used to use a light box like this one with the holes in the side using two lights at the side. Recently I have not bothered with the diffused light but you article has prompted me to return to this method. I will construct my light box and drop you some pics of the results.
    Kind Regards

    • Lucian Vasies
      October 14, 2015

      Hi Lindsay,
      I’m very curious about your results. I will try tomorrow to prepare the second part with how I use my lights and some tricks 🙂 In the third part I will write about software.

  • Ken McBroom
    December 23, 2021

    This is great information for photographing flies. I purchased 4 white painters canvases and glued velcro in the corners to assemble them into a box. It works great and is easy to store on my closet shelf.

    • Lucian Vasies
      January 3, 2022

      Hi Ken,
      I’m glad that you like the article. It is an old one, now whit modern phones is not complicated anymore to make macro photos. Even really good ones 🙂

  • Peter Dunne
    January 29, 2024

    Hi Lucian.
    Just came across your excellent article on fly photography…and am happy to share that this is the method I used to photograph a unique collection of antique salmon and trout flies for Inland Fisheries, Ireland. I used a white fabric clothes basket for the light box and diffused lighting along with reflectors to give really good lighting. The photos came out really well. I also engaged the countdown release on my camera to avoid all camera shake on my Nikon D7100, which is still a terrific tool for any photography. It was coupled with a Sigma 50mm lens. Thanks for sharing you expertise…the learning is continuous. Greetings from Ireland.

    • Lucian Vasies
      February 2, 2024

      Hi Peter,
      Thanks, I’m happy to know that you find those info useful 🙂
      my best wishes

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