If you are like me, and have a passion for macro photography I highly recommend taking photos of insects. The world of insects and mini bests is fascinating and whilst these small creatures may appear dull and uninteresting to the naked eye if you get to see them under a microscope your opinion will change, believe me. With an extreme close up image of a dragonfly you will see they are actually bearded, which is really cool. With an extreme close up image of a spider you will see it has multiple eyes, and man are they hairy little critters. With an extreme close up image of a fly you will see the hexagonal pattern of its eyes…… etc. Yep, capturing photographs of insects is really good fun and highly enjoyable. I have enjoyed taking photos of mini bests, critters and insects for many years and, along the way, have learned a few tips and tricks to capture awesome close up and macro photos of insects and mini beasts that will not only impress, but also amaze your family and friends.
How to take great photos of insects tip 1 - Get a macro lens
If you want to take macro images there are products on the market, such as close up filters and extension tubes that claim to capture macro images but they don’t. True macro images are a 1:1 reproduction, i.e. life size and these products don’t achieve this. In addition to this, close up filters and extension tubes adversely affect image quality, so they are best left alone.
If you want to capture true macro images of insects that are good quality you need a specific macro lens. There are many different types of macro lenses, available in a variety of different focal lengths but not all of them are suitable for taking photos of insects. The best macro lens is the one with the longest focal length since this gives the best working distance, i.e. distance between the end of the lens and the subject.
Many companies make macro lenses so there is a good selection to choose from. As long as you buy a macro lens from one of the top companies, i.e. Canon, Nikon, Sigma or Tamron you can be sure you are getting a good quality macro lens that will capture awesome images of insects and last a long time. It is worth pointing out there are many cheap and nasty macro lenses available to buy but these are best avoided.
Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens review
One of the best macro lenses out there is the Sigma 105mm macro lens and it is the macro lens I use for all my insect photography. It doesn’t matter whether you use a Canon or a Nikon camera you can use this macro lens.
The Sigma 105mm macro lens is simply awesome. The 105mm focal length provides a good working distance, i.e. distance between the end of the lens and the subject, which means you don’t have to get too close to the insect to get a photo of it. The working distance also helps light the insects correctly to really make them “pop”.
The image quality of this lens is simply amazing. Colors are bright and vivid but not over saturated and images are tack sharp. Many photographers consider this one of the sharpest lenses out there, and when you see the results I think you will agree and won’t have any complaints about “soft” images.
If you want one of the best macro lenses to take images of insects I highly recommend the Sigma 105mm f2.8 macro lens. It really is an awesome lens that will improve your macro images.
A top macro lens for Canon and Nikon shooters
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How to take photos of insects tip 3 - Speed is key
Some insects are notoriously fast therefore you need to keep on your toes if you are going to take photographs of them. The best way to capture images of insects is to be stealth like and slowly creep to wards the insect focusing your macro lens as you go. As you get up close and personal you then need to be super quick and take the insect by surprise to get the shot.
In order to increase the chances of making the shot I recommend manually focusing on the insect as opposed to relying on your camera’s auto focus system. Manual focusing quickly takes some time and practice but if you persevere you will get there, and the time and effort you spend learning how to focus manually is time well spent.
How to take photos of insects tip 2 - Light the subject correctly
Correct lighting is key in all types of photography, and this includes macro photography. If you don’t light the insects correctly your images are going to look flat and lifeless. Yep, in order to really make your images “pop” lighting is very important, and you need to look at the intensity of the light, the direction of the light and the quality of the light.
You can use reflectors to bounce the light back on the insects, but this is cumbersome if you are on your own. Holding a reflector and trying to take photographs of insects is very difficult. It is, however, feasible if you have an assistant to hold the reflector.
The best way to light insects, mini beasts and other critters is to use an external flash gun. You can use a standard external flash gun but there is a better product, which is a macro ring light. A macro ring light is a light you attach to the end of the lens, via the filter thread, that works in the same way as a normal flash. Macro ring flashes are less powerful than conventional flash guns but they are adjustable so you can play around with the settings to get the type of image you are after. Since the macro flash sits on the end of the lens you won’t have any problems with the lens casting shadows over your images of insects, and it is this feature that makes the macro flash more useful than a standard flash.
There are cheap and nasty macro ring lights that are either “off or on” and are not a true flash after all. These macro ring lights will light a subject but you can’t control the direction or the intensity of the light therefore they are next to useless. These macro ring lights are best left well alone and you should get a macro ring flash unit instead.
A macro ring flash will improve your insect photographs no end, and it is an essential piece of photography kit for macro and close up photography.
Light the subject with a ring flash
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How to take photos of insects tip 4 - The time of day
If you want to capture images of insects the time of day plays a large part. In the middle of the day, when the temperatures are up, insects are at their most active and seldom sit still long enough to be photographed.
In the early mornings and late evenings most insects are at their least active, are slower and, therefore, are easier to photograph. Whether you take images of insects early morning or late in the evening is entirely down to personal preference and the type of image you are trying to capture.
I have many successful insect photos taken in the early mornings and my favourite are of dragonflies with tiny droplets of morning due on their wings. Similarly, I have many successful insect photos captured at the end of the day and my favourite is of a silhouette of a dragonfly on a reed stem against a gorgeous sunset. As you can see from these examples it is possible to capture great images of insects both early mornings and late evenings, so when you go and take photographs of insects is entirely up to you. Just don’t bother going during the midday sun when insects are at their most active.
How to take photos of insects tip 5 - be prepared to get dirty
If you want to capture awesome macro and close up photos of insects you need to be prepared to get down and dirty. In order to really experience the world of insects and mini beasts you are going to have to get in to their world, which means getting on your hands and knees and scrabble around in the dirt and mud, lifting up rocks and other bits of debris where the insects are going to be hiding.