Macro Photography Tips — Things to Know before Photographing Insects

Insect macro photography is a fun and rewarding area of photography, but it is tricky to get a good shot. There are different factors (light, composition) to consider to get good results In insect macro photography. But the significant aspect is the way you should be around restless insects.

Insect macro photography tips and photograph of a ladybug

Photo Credits: Anika via Flickr

So, in this article I am giving you some tips to get good results in macro photography.

Start Early

Shooting insects in the morning come with several advantages.

  • Light is great and works really well with the shots.
  • Insects are usually inactive if the weather is cold.

Thus, you get a better chance to take the shots perfectly.
Now let’s check out on a few ways you can shoot insects outside a controlled environment.

Search thoroughly

Each insect type has its own preference for food, place, time of the day. The flies and bees get attracted to the pollen and the nectar producing flowers. Ants remain attached to anything that dies, such as insects or worms. Spiders, at times, live between or on the tree branches. You need to know the type of insect you are looking for to choose the right places. Insects are also attracted to the areas where water collects like puddles. It’s easy to find insects in the early morning or late evening. If the weather is cold, insects are usually inactive in the early morning.

Locate a Beautiful Subject

Select the right specimens. Avoid the insects with  broken wings, bees on flowers that are wilting, or vegetation that is being munched. However, this is optional because what matters is your interest in subject of your photographs.

Approach Slowly

Do not run towards an insect you are eager to take a shot of; move slow so that it does not run or fly away. Insects don’t move, if you don’t disturb them. Don’t rush towards it out of excitement. This may ruin your chances of getting a good shot.

Be Patient

Some insects like bees and flies are common to find. However, it’s hard to photograph them as they are restless. Most insects move slowly or remain perfectly still when you find them. Before taking pictures, you have to stay still and study them for a while — how long they are going to stay there? Do they move when you move? After that you can take some shots and see if that is bothering the insects.

Use Zoom Lens or Macro lens

You need to fill the frame. Taking macro shots will be absolutely useless if there are acres of space around the subject. The insects may crawl out of your frame if you move very close to them or approach fast. Zoom lenses and macro lenses has good working distance.

Avoid Using Direct Flash

Study the structure of your subject to decide on a way to light it. Beetles and shiny leaves reflect light. So, avoid using direct flash. However, the translucent wings and leaves appear more dramatic if they are backlit. Direct or harsh light are hardly used in macro photography since they create high contrast images. The best way is to diffuse the flash light since it creates soft light which brings out good colors and contrast.

Mix it Up

If you are spending hours behind a subject, make sure to change the composition and the angle of your shots. For example, you can photograph butterflies with their wings head on, open, or while feeding. Also, remember to experiment with horizontal and the vertical shots. Take diverse images even if you are just photographing a single subject.

Ditch Your Tripod

Less is more. Text book macro photography says that  you have to use tripod and all to get good shot. However, it is rarely practical (they work only on inactive/dead/still subjects. The best way to avoid blurry images is to use some hacks like holding your breath while taking pictures, using image stabilization, using burst mode. You would get more flexible in your compositions if you avoid your tripod.

Avoid Distractions

Keep the background as simple as possible. Avoid contrast interference (patches of bright and dark background). Select a non-distracting, colorful background. In case there are, change the angle of your camera. Sometimes, holding a leaf or any colored object behind the insect would help you to get a seamless background.

Use Creativity

Think creatively. Take a picture from an interesting angle. You can make the image more striking if you include a colorful flower in it. You can stand close by a colorful flower and wait for an insect to land. Keep a watch on flowers with a lot of pollen. They have higher chances to tempt the insects. Also, capture some action. If your camera if fast enough, take some pictures with insects flying.

It’s okay if you don’t get any photographs. 

Insect macro photography is appealing because you can find them in different colors, sizes, and shapes. Make sure to be patient since they are not just hard to spot, but move around fast too. You can also bring them indoor to photograph them. Make sure to be gentle and return it to the place they were as soon as you are done.

So, ready with the tips, how about going out and finding an insect to photograph? Share your photographs with us.

Tristan Taylor
Tristan Taylor, a proficient fashion photographer, is associated with various photography workshops, seminars and symposiums. He keeps himself updated with nitty-gritties of fashion photography industry. Tristan found Gulf Photo Plus extremely helpful to extract information regarding Fine art printing, Giclee print and other aspects related to photography.

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