How to Take Great Insect Photography

Insect photography is an interesting style to try for a number of reasons. There is no shortage of subjects to photograph with the billions of insects all over the planet any time of the year. The insects and the environment provide a collection of colors and textures to work with and explore. Compared to human models, insects need not be requested for permission to be photographed. Photographing these minute subjects also comes with its own set of challenges. The following are a few tips on how to take great insect photographs.

Step 1: Camera and Equipment Selection

Both the SLR and point-and-shoot types of cameras can be used to photograph insects. Point and shoot cameras are less popular as the LCD or viewfinder does not accurately show which areas are in focus. For macro photography or photographing up close, macro lenses are needed. These will enable photographs to capture images of insects from farther distances so as not to scare the insects away. With using a point-and-shoot camera, photographers will need to get closer to get great close-up shots.

True macro lenses used in the field are considered prime types with fixed focal lengths. These types of lenses provide the photographer the best resolution even at close distances. Extension tubes can also be used in insect photography. These are hollow tubes placed in between the camera body and the lens. Use of this kind of equipment increases the distance between the film plane and the lens, boosting magnification of the image. The use of flash is also beneficial, as it increases the shutter speed.

Step 2: Understand the Disadvantages of Using Macro Equipment

There are drawbacks with using macro equipment. The increase in magnification reduces the depth of field in an image, decreasing the total area of the image which is in sharp focus. This provides another disadvantage. With more minute subjects, the reduced depth of focus makes it more vital to think about composition and selecting which area to place the most focus on. Another limitation is the amount of stability with using macro equipment. An increase in magnification also makes it more difficult to keep the camera still.

Step 3: Capture the Insects in an Interesting Manner

Even with all the limits of insect photography, photographers have found ways of going around them and producing vivid images. There is an inverse relationship between magnification and depth of focus. To make up for the limited amount of depth of focus, photographers are more careful of what areas to include in the final image. Composition is key in insect photography. Photographers give the sharpest focus on the eyes or area of the head, as these are areas which have the most drama. Wings are also a popular area to show because of the detailed patterns.  

Capture the aspect which makes the insect unique. If it is the insect’s mandibles, then compose the image to show the insect when it is eating. Insects are also known to be jumpy. Knowing the behavior of the subject is needed to determine how to best approach and how to capture the image without scaring the insect away. It also pays to be patient, allocating a significant amount of time to photographing insects.