Nature photography is a specialty that requires attention to detail. Insects provide creative shots with vibrant colors and unique settings, and subjects are easily found since they are all around. The proper equipment will help photograph each bug in their natural habitat. Here are some macro photography tips that you can use in your own backyard.
Use the Right Camera
A point-and-shoot may be cost efficient and easy to use, but it will not offer the true 1:1 magnification that is necessary for macro insect photography. A digital SLR is key to insect photography. The lens options on an SLR will provide a much closer and sharper image. The ability to add external flashes will also help a budding photographer.
Experiment With Macro Lenses
Macro photography does not involve any additional zooming. A photographer relies on the lens itself to magnify the subject. A true macro produces an image that is as big as it is in real life. This is called a 1:1 magnification.
To achieve a 1:1 magnification, proper lenses are necessary. The most common lenses are 50mm, 100mm, and 180mm. These are fixed focal lenses and are easy to find through brands such as Canon, Nikon, Sigma, and others.
To understand how 1:1 magnification can be achieved, a 50mm macro lens has a working distance of 1.6 inches. This means that you will need to be 1.6 inches away from the subject to get a lifesize photo. A 180mm lens will provide a working distance of 9.1 inches.
Know Your Settings
While early morning and late afternoon or evening may provide the best light to work with, insects are working all day and night. Adjusting digital SLR settings to accommodate for each time of day will produce better images. An additional flash might be needed if it’s cloudy. You can also try Aperture Priority mode (AV) and use a large aperture setting to create a blurred background.
Since insects are very tiny, remember to use a shallow depth of field. Try f.2/8 and watch shutter speed. Avoid using Auto, Macro, or the Program modes.
Focus on Your Subject (But Be Careful)
It may be difficult to keep your insect in focus when taking a picture with a macro lens. A tripod can help avoid blurry images since it will hold the camera steady. If you use a shallow depth of field, the background will become completely blurred out which makes your insect stand out.
When working with bugs that a bit bigger like grasshoppers, focus on the head and the eyes. Some bugs will be harder to track down than others; you’ll also want to be careful how you handle and interact with them. Otherwise, you might find your home plagued by indoor infestations of harmful and hard-to-exterminate insects like bed bugs and termites.
Get in Close
If you aren’t using a tripod, approach your subject quietly. To avoid blur in your image, steady the camera. An easy way to keep your hands still would be to lean against something nearby like a tree or gate. You can then lock your elbows in and snap away. It is also important to be mindful of your shadow so you do not cover the insect.
Insects can be tricky to photograph, especially ones that fly like bees and butterflies. The best way to capture these creatures is to be patient. Stand near a flower that has pollen and wait. Butterflies are tricky, but ladybugs and grasshoppers might not notice your presence. And, as always, take as many photographs as you can of each particular insect.
Consider Additional Gear
Besides a macro lens, there are a few tools that make insect photography easier. Using a tripod will create images that are less blurry. A remote or self timer will give the flexibility a photographer needs to snap quickly and quietly. Also, colored cards are important to have since they can create a quick backdrop.
Take photos from all angles. Try above, below, and to the sides. Each angle will provide a fresh take on the subject. Look for vibrant colors and consider using tools to amplify each subject. A ringlight flash, for instance, will highlight the insect’s details and produce greater detail.
Edit Your Shots
If you choose to edit your images after an insect photo shoot, remember to narrow down the shots that you take. Always use simple tools to rotate and crop the image, and adjust the levels in curves to make the colors stand out. Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are editing programs that any photographer would know about, but you can make basic adjustments with free online tools such as Pixlr or Picmonkey.
Macro insect photography lets you capture nature’s beauty that might not be seen regularly. It can be challenging, but the end result rewarding.