One Hacker’s Small Tabletop Photo Studio

We love good pictures. You know, being worth a thousand words and all. So, after our article on taking good reference photos, we were pleased to see a reader, [Steve], sharing his photography set-up.

Taking good technical photos is a whole separate art from other fields of photography like portraiture.  For example, [Steve] mentions that he uses “bullseye” composition, or, putting the thing right in the middle. The standard philosophy on this method is that it’s bad and you are bad. For technical photos, it’s perfect.

[Steve] also has some unique toys in his arsenal. Like a toy macro lens from a subscription chemistry kit. He also showed off his foldscope. Sadly, they appear to no longer be for sale, but we sometimes get by with a loupe held in front of the lens. He also uses things standard in our shop. Such as a gridded cutting mat as a backdrop and a cheap three dollar tripod with spring actuated jaws to hold his phone steady.

In the end, [Steve] mostly shows that a little thought goes a long way to producing a photo that doesn’t just show, but communicates an idea in a better way than just words can manage.


14 thoughts on “One Hacker’s Small Tabletop Photo Studio

    1. According to Foldscope ( “Unfortunately our Beta-program has now closed. We’ll update the website if foldscopes become available in another way.” I sent them an email, but have not received a response. Outstanding idea. My Science 2.0 article about the Foldscope got a link from Jennifer Ouellette in her Physics Week In Review: Sad to think the project has been discontinued.

  1. That’s a really nice setup, and for such low cost it’s remarkable. Easily salvaged CD-ROM lenses for macro focus, cheap LED lights, iPod or smartphone camera, good choices for anyone on a budget. Thanks for posting this!

  2. Cameras have become cheap. I’m not talking about at the store prices, though that is true. There are loads of older digital cameras at garage and rummage sales, for a few dollars. Their real limitation is low pixel count, but that isn’t always an issue (though apparently it is for the original owner, since they are selling cheap. Last year I got one with 12x zoom for twenty dollars. The other day I got a “prosumer” from 2000, nice and heavy, for three dollars. It even has ä place on top for a better flash. If only they hadn’t lost the remote.

    So long as you don’t need high pixel count, you can get much better cameras cheap. Make that IR camera (and if the first attempt goes wrong, it didn’t cost much). No need to use a smartphone, a three dollar camera can be dedicated to this or that. The two cameras mentioned above will take other lenses (though I suspect more expensive than I paid for the cameras). Or modify one for wired remote, useful for studio type work, and no damage to an expensive camera. The point is that the older cameras provide a better foundation for modifications than a webcam (which I have seen mods for).

    If course you can get film cameras really cheap now, that once cost a pretty penny. But only useful if you’re into film. You can play with fancy digital cameras for virtually nothing already.


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