To many people, insects are creepy crawlies that are either considered as pests or something to stay away from because they look far from endearing. Yet, insects are actually quite fascinating to look at and to photograph. If you are just venturing into the world of insect photography, don’t worry too much about the gear. A compact camera or an entry-level point and shoot with a macro function can be sufficient and you can always expand your equipment later when you feel the need.
Some easy to follow insect photography tips:
Shoot up close – If you are afraid of these little creatures, now is the time to get used to their proximity.
Insects are small and to capture their details, you need to get as close as you can up to where your camera’s focus remains clear and sharp. For those with point-and-shoot cameras, turn on the macro function. To make the insect look even bigger in the image frame, try cropping tighter during post-processing. Those with macro lenses can enjoy large magnifications and can capture the patterns of the insect’s eyes or wings. When shooting up close, remember not to scare away the insect by being noisy or moving too much. Insects may look fearsome but they may most likely be nervous of your presence and want to scurry away.
Avoid camera shake – many insects like to move about and just won’t stay still. For moving insects, use a flash or a very fast shutter speed such as 1/500s or faster to avoid camera shake. You can also place the camera on a tripod instead of holding it by hand when shooting. Take note that the slightest blur will be prominent in the shot. If you want to photograph an insect in mid-motion, such as while it’s flying, you can make the shutter speed extremely fast so it looks suspended in the air, or allow some motion (such as of its flapping wings) to be captured to present movement. Play around with the exposure settings, and if you don’t get it right the first time, don’t be disheartened and try again.
Make interesting compositions – be creative with your compositions by presenting insects in various perspectives. Use its surroundings as props and sets for your setup. Aside from taking the standard side view shots of insects standing on leaves or flowers, try shooting from a different angle such as this:
Or creative lighting like this:
Insect photography is an exercise in patience as your subjects can be elusive and skittish creatures. So take the time to think of possible compositions even before the insect appears for the shot.
Avoid background clutter – insects can usually be found under bushes, clinging on twigs, or crawling on the ground. When photographing them in their environment, their background may sometimes be distracting or unattractive. To make your insect subject the focus of your shot and to separate it from an undesirable background, use a very shallow depth of field by increasing your lens’ aperture size. This will keep the insect clear and sharp while blurring out the background.
If you haven’t yet tried your hand at insect photography, now might be a good time to start. You could be pleasantly surprised by how much fun it is to photograph these insects, especially when you begin noticing how fascinating they look up close, even that pesky horsefly.