Bill, I read the article Splash is referring to. It was by a professional photographer who takes lots of pictures for the fly tying magazines. I don't remember much about the article, but I do remember that he said that he gets the best results using an entirely black background, and I believe a very bright flash. You can see in the three pictures above that it's easiest to see detail in the one with the darkest background.
Best results, put the fly in the foreground and the background in the background. That may sound simple, but in fact it's easy to forget. See in your last pic the shadow on the background from the flash? That can be removed by simply moving the fly forward enough (or the background back far enough) so the shadow won't reach the background. You did that in two of your first pics. Take a look at this shot to see what I mean:
I had the book so far back there, and the camera so focused in on the fly that you can't see any shadow. Plus, the background is blurry, making your eye focus on the subject in the foreground.
The best thing to get for taking close up shots is diopter lenses for point-n-shoots, or a macro lens if you have an SLR camera. These will allow you to practically put the subject right against the lens, and it will keep them in focus. Some point-n-shoots have ring adapters that go over the lens so you can put filters and such on there. Your's might not.
Here are some more examples:
You don't always need to have the fly in a vice or stand, either. Sometimes putting it in context, like on your tying bench, or even flat on a plain T-shirt is cool too.
And sometimes, the best way to shoot your fly is in the best place of all...
[ 05-23-2006, 12:14 PM: Message edited by: Fly Ty R ]
Hey guys, I'm not a fly tie guy, however I have taken a few photos over the last 22 years. Try bouncing the flash off a white ceiling or white panel of some sort. You would eliminate those harsh shadows that fall behind the subject making for a cleaner image. Most pro shooters that do product photography use lightboxes which soften the light and remove those nasty shadows. You can get really good results doing the bounce thing. Another simple way to do it is by taking a white index card and placing it above the flash head at 45 degree angle with a rubber band bouncing the light into the card which then reflects down on to the fly itself. Now, if you are using those little snappy cameras with a built in flash...you're kinda screwed. Good luck.
Good advice Rage! I use a speedlight on an extension cable for my Nikon, so I can place it anywhere for adequate lighting. Usually all I do is mount the flash on the camera and angle it upward, so there is an indirect flash. You can also get similar results with two regular desk lamps, one placed to the side and one exactly opposite on the other side, for adequte fore and backlighting. Or you can mass with their locations to get weighted lighting. You're right, those cheap built-in flashes screw it up royally!
There are so many little variables with photography, that it takes a while to get the hang of it. Once you figure it out, it's like "DUH, why didn't I think of that before???"