This is my super affordable light-box setup. I have experimented for years with capturing the best specimen image – and not wanting to build a full on light-box, I developed this balsa frame with tracing paper diffuser setup instead.
The frames are hot-glued together with some tracing paper stretched across. At the top corner I jointed the frames with an insect pin, which allows me to balance them at an angle over the specimen. I illuminate the setup with a 150w fiber optic illuminator, this allows for easy control of light angle, etc. I made this investment for my microscope years ago, but you could use any other type of lighting. Best results come from florescent or halogen/tungsten that produces a brighter, whiter light. I then pin the specimen onto black artist paper over a foam block – more specifically it’s the Artagain black artist paper, 60lb. (If anyone wants a few sheets, let me know, I have tons of this stuff).
I then tilt the block to be at 90 degrees to my camera. I am currently shooting with a Canon 40D and a 100mm macro lens. I think the best results come from a slightly underexposed image with a low f-stop (I usually shoot around f/4-6). A lower f-stop creates a much softer, uniform, background – but also a very thin depth of focus. This works very well for lepidoptera where the only real characters exist on the flat wings. The entire setup can be controlled remotely through my computer, which gives me the ability to finely control the focus and produce a perfect image on the first take.
A few results, and they almost look like auto-montage images.