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Photographing insects



Whether you consider them to be creepy-crawlies or fascinating critters, insects are a part of our lives, and make interesting subjects for photography.
Whether you consider them to be creepy-crawlies or fascinating critters, insects are a part of our lives, and make interesting subjects for photography.

Insect photography can take at least two forms - taking pictures of insects in their environment, and removing insects from their habitat to be photographed more clinically. In the first case, which is a form of nature photography, you are recording on film or on a digital camera's storage media an insect’s natural appearance and behavior. Insect identification and/or classification are the usual purposes of the second form of photography, which is a dispassionate, analytical approach in which the insect is often killed in order to more easily photograph it.

Both types have at least one element in common. Each usually requires close-up, macrophotography techniques. We say “usually” because some insects are large enough to be photographed without close-up equipment, while others are so tiny that photomicography (photography through a microscope) is needed to even see them.

ARACHNIDS

Photography of spiders, scorpions and other arachnids is included in this section. It would not make sense to have a separate section for them, since they share so many similarities with insects, and the techniques for taking their pictures are by and large the same.

WHY PHOTOGRAPH INSECTS?

Insects are fascinating to look at - often quite beautiful or colorful - and so plentiful. More than 75% of Earth’s living creatures are insects, and many of these take on different forms as they progress through life’s stages of growth and development, adding to the diversity. The butterfly, for example, is a favorite insect subject that can be photographed in its egg, caterpillar, chrysalis (or pupa) and its winged adult stages.

Yet, even though they are all around us, we often don’t really see them. They are too small, too nimble, too elusive and many only come out at dusk or during the night. Many insects are only found in certain corners of the globe, at certain elevations, climatic conditions or in a specific habitat.

Macrophotographs bring us “closer” to an insect, revealing physical or behavioral details that we would miss using the naked eye alone. People will often closely study an insect’s picture, looking at details they could not see even if the tiny insect were on a table in front of them. Photographs often help us to understand these creatures, many of which look as bizarre to us as we imagine an alien would look, yet they are among our closest neighbors.

Show someone a good close-up picture of any insect, and you will be amazed at their level of fascination and interest. It is challenging to a photographer to properly capture an insect’s picture, and even more so to photograph the enormous variety of insect interactions. Getting a picture of a spider on its web is one thing; getting a picture of a jumping spider capturing its prey is another.

SEND US YOUR PICTURES AND TIPS

We hope this section will point you in the right direction to capture excellent insect pictures. When you do, we invite you to send them in so we can show them to other viewers. You may have used a particular technique or equipment that is not discussed here, and we would welcome hearing about it so that it can be shared with others. We will ensure you are credited with the photography and the provision of the information.

Although spiders aren't insects (they're arachnids), we include them in this section because as subjects, they are so similar and the same basic techniques are used in photographing them.
Although spiders aren't insects (they're arachnids), we include them in this section because as subjects, they are so similar and the same basic techniques are used in photographing them.

Insect subjects can be found just about anywhere, from the farthest reaches of a jungle to the painted wooden frame around your front door.
Insect subjects can be found just about anywhere, from the farthest reaches of a jungle to the painted wooden frame around your front door.

The dragonfly or darning needle is usually an easy insect to photograph - and large enough that a macro lens is not necessary.
The dragonfly or darning needle is usually an easy insect to photograph - and large enough that a macro lens is not necessary.

Dragonflies can be among the most-colorful insects to be found in your garden.
Dragonflies can be among the most-colorful insects to be found in your garden.

Pre-focusing on a flower when bees are active, and then waiting for the arrival of a likely subject, is an effective technique that requires patience.
Pre-focusing on a flower when bees are active, and then waiting for the arrival of a likely subject, is an effective technique that requires patience.

Photography of insects as they go about their business can be a
Photography of insects as they go about their business can be a "hit or miss" affair. You may capture a bee's backside five times before you get a picture that shows the insect at its best.

 
Further information...
Equipment for insect photography
Insect shots made easier
Mate or meal
Related topics...

Macrophotography