The most basic element of photography is the interaction of light with the subject being imaged. In cases where magnification and clarity are of great importance, such as the imaging of insects for scientific illustration, controlling light can be especially challenging. The intense light needed to reveal microscopic elements such as setae and ultrastructural sculpturing may often overcompensate the light levels needed in other areas, especially for high color contrast and/or reflective specimens. Projecting halogen fiber-optic lights over diffusers such as Mylar or Styrofoam is one method used to overcome this imbalance successfully; however, these methods typically involve a great deal of setup time and experience. Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are a cheap, powerful, and energy-efficient light source that is now being used more frequently in the imaging of insects under a microscope. One technique that has shown promise for quick and effective insect imaging is using LEDs in conjunction with an open dome to create a diffused, soft light arena for photography. Though commercially available illumination domes exist, creating a dome lighting system of your own is in fact easy and inexpensive. We detail how a variety of dome systems can be made using easily acquired materials and identify a few important considerations for effectively imaging challenging subjects under a microscope.
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