Insects aren’t for everyone. While some squirm and squeal in their presence, others view them as an object of intense fascination. For photographers, they can prove to be an incredibly rewarding subject matter, however, photographing them unlocks a unique set of challenges. It’s estimated that insects make up over 90% of animal life on earth, so there is no catch-all guide to photographing insects, but we have outlined some general tips that should come in handy.
CHOOSING A LENS
First and foremost, even the biggest insects are small, their features are minuscule and intricate, so detailed images are the only way to do them justice. A suitable macro lens should be the starting point as it allows you to shoot insects that fills the frame nicely with minute details. This will allow you to pick up details that aren’t easily visible to the human’s naked eye. Nikon’s line of Micro-Nikkor lenses ranges from 40 to 200mm in focal length, which will fit different situations.
Tripods are incredibly beneficial for any type of macro photography and insects are no exception. Given the intricacy of their body parts, sharpness is essential for insect photography, so stability is vital. The closer you get to your subject the more obvious camera movement becomes, so whether you’re shooting insects on your balcony or deep in a jungle, bring out the tripod.
A resting ladybird is all well and good, but capturing an insect mid-flight can be as challenging as it is rewarding. The potential for motion blur is high, which can be alleviated by choosing a fast shutter speed. Insects fly at different speeds so there’s no hard and fast rule, but a shutter speed such as 1/1000 or 1/2000 is a good starting point. Ideally, the photo will be focused enough to make out the subject’s details while having a small degree of motion blur on the wings to illustrate movement.
Insects aren’t likely to sit around and wait for you to set up the perfect lighting. They are fast and erratic and most likely you are out in nature, so you’re at the mercy of natural sun light. Early mornings or late afternoons are your best bet. Many insects have aspects of their anatomy that are translucent, which when caught in the right light can make for a stunning photograph.
Insects are fascinating creatures and in order to truly bring out the unique beauty of your subject matter you should consider your background carefully. A contrasting colour that brings out the insect’s colour is ideal. Given their small stature, using a shallow depth of field is recommended to help the subject stand out from its background. it’s always a good idea to experiment and see what’s working best.
A final note. Most insects won’t bother you, but you have to remember that you’re getting up close and personal, so please exercise caution to avoid getting stung!