Macro Photography: Study the Field Before You Shoot!

Updated on April 13, 2018
sallybea profile image

Macro photography and the photographing the bugs and insects has been a love of mine since I first picked up a Digital SLR with a macro lens

Ladybird,/Ladybug
Ladybird,/Ladybug | Source

How to Successfully Photograph Insects

It is estimated that there are around a million insects that have already been identified. There are still more to be discovered. Perhaps you will be the next person to do this! Scientists recently discovered a new Lacewing when an image was shown on Flickr. With so much interest in macro photography, the likelihood of this happening again is pretty good.

What to Do Before and After Photographing Insects

  • Always wear appropriate footwear. It should be comfortable, lightweight, and preferably waterproof. I don’t recommend sandals. It is essential that you learn to tread quietly so as not to disturb your intended subjects.
  • Always cover your arms and legs with lightweight cotton fabric. It will protect you from sunburn and insect bites. If you intend to visit fields where animals graze, it is likely you will come across a horse or deer fly occasionally, perhaps even the odd tick!
  • Check your clothing and body when you get home. Ticks can cause Lyme’s disease. Horse and deer flies can give a really painful nasty bite. Nevertheless, all three insects make for a very interesting photo opportunity if you do come across one.

What to Do While You're Photographing Insects

  • Try not to cast your shadow over the insects. They will not notice you so much when you approach them if you do this.
  • Keep an eye out for horses, especially if you are sharing a field where they are grazing. I was once rudely disturbed by a horse who snatched my camera bag when I was not looking. It took it in its mouth and started shaking it about rather forcefully! I suspect he thought I had brought him some food, and I was lucky to get my gear back intact!

Mottled Umber Moth Caterpillar
Mottled Umber Moth Caterpillar | Source
White against pink background
White against pink background | Source

Nettles Can Be Your Friend

Surprisingly a good place to start out is in a patch of nettles. You may not need to go far; you may have some in your own back garden! These unfriendly plants are home to around forty different species of insects and even some of our favorite butterflies and moths. Aphids overwinter in the nettles, and when the new fresh spring growth arrives, hundreds of Ladybirds will begin feeding on them. This will give you the perfect opportunity to witness an aphid standing up to a ladybird! You will learn to predict when a ladybird is about to take flight. With practice, you will soon be taking ‘action’ shots of ladybirds in flight. I try never to take images which show a ladybird resting, as I prefer to take them on the move. The challenge is to get a really sharp image. I sometimes use a monopod, though I mostly hand hold my camera to have greater flexibility.

If you look carefully, you will see the larvae of the peacock and small tortoiseshell butterfly on the nettles. They will be found eating in large groups hidden under little silky tents, usually in the top of the nettle stems.

Ladybird/Ladybug
Ladybird/Ladybug | Source

Choose the Correct Time of Day!

Choose the correct time of day. It is always easier to take photos of insects in the early morning or later on in the early evening. Insects are cold-blooded and are much slower at these times. You waste a lot of time if you try to take pictures of butterflies in the bright sunlight. They seldom appear to rest, and if you do find one sitting for just a split second, it will suddenly be disturbed by a passing butterfly which will fleetingly pounce on it and then off they will go. It is simply amazing how they have the ability to move at such a pace and still find each other!

Bees sometimes are so focused on gathering pollen that they will not even notice you approach them. If you look down on them, they will appear ‘drunk’ on nectar. I prefer images of bees to be taken whilst they are flying.

You will be rewarded with some lovely images if you learn the habitat of your subjects.

  • Learn patience and work quietly without disturbing your subjects.
  • Tread carefully and don’t destroy anything in your quest to get your image.
  • Respect the right of the insects to be there, and you will be rewarded over and over again.

Study the habitat first, your success rate depends on it .Ladybird taking flight
Study the habitat first, your success rate depends on it .Ladybird taking flight | Source

Insects, Fascinating or Creepy?

Do Insects fascinate you or do they give your the creeps

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Sally Gulbrandsen

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      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        3 years ago from Norfolk

        poetryman6969

        I very much appreciate your stopping by to comment on my macro photography.

        Thank you for the vote up.

        Sally

      • poetryman6969 profile image

        poetryman6969 

        3 years ago

        The photo with the ladybug about to take flight was beautiful. Voted. up.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        4 years ago from Norfolk

        BribPraslicka

        You are most welcome. My experience is limited to about a quarter of your years. I love photography but I do have a special interest is for macro photography - I hope that this shows in the images and I look forward very much to seeing you back on my pages.

        Thank you.

        Sally

      • BronPraslicka profile image

        Bron Praslicka 

        4 years ago from Dallas / Fort Worth area of Texas

        Thank you for stopping by and for your kind comments. Although I have been taking photos a long time this is my first time to try to write about it. You obviously have a lot of experience - and a true gift for both photography and writing - so I will be visiting your hubs often.

        Bron

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        4 years ago from Norfolk

        PaigePixel

        Thank you so much! I purchased a new Sigma Macro Lens today and I am so excited. I just can't wait to get out with the bugs tomorrow. I appreciate the visit, especially the vote up, useful, awesome and beautiful. It was such a pleasure to have you come visit one of my pages.

        Sally

      • PaigePixel profile image

        Paige 

        4 years ago from New Orleans, LA

        Gorgeous pics, and a wonderful reminder to take out my macro lens and get back to work! Upvoted, useful, awesome and above all beautiful!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        4 years ago from Norfolk

        kidscrafts - great!M Amazing how one can translate something from English to French with Google Translator, not always perfect but still! I will follow your boards, thank you very much.

        You have a nice evening too:)

        Sally

      • kidscrafts profile image

        kidscrafts 

        4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

        I started to follow you on Pinterest in both languages :-) I know that you could have find easily the English one with hubpages but not the French one :-) I didn't had time to translate your text yet.... but it will come!

        Have a nice evening!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        4 years ago from Norfolk

        kidscrafts - It is so nice of you to visit my Insect Photography, one of my favorite things to do in the world of Nature. I very much appreciate your lovely comments. Thank you so much for the pins - to both your French and English Pinterest. I will have to look for you on those two sites.

        Best wishes

        Sally

      • kidscrafts profile image

        kidscrafts 

        4 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

        Your picture of the ladybird taking flight is just incredible! Woaw! It's a nice way to show the two pairs of elytrons (I hope I use the right word here). Voted up, useful, interesting, beautiful and awesome! And I will pin it too (in both my French and English Pinterest)!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        4 years ago from Norfolk

        DDE

        You have been busy today!! How nice of you to catch up on some of my earlier Hubs.

        Everyone who knows me well - knows of my passion for Macro Photography. I have always loved nature but it became even more fascinating when I was able to scrutinize little creatures under my lens. What a revelation it was to me. I did feel as if I had struck gold - I suddenly had a first class ticket in the Bug World!

        A macro lens is not just for Bugs though - it makes a great portrait lens and can be used to explore so many other things in nature or in our modern world.

        Thanks for your visit DDE - you have a truly awesome day too.

        Sally

      • DDE profile image

        Devika Primić 

        4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

        Macro Photography Tips for beginners - study the habitat before you begin an incredible read and this is such a wonderful way to start learning. Great photos and as always a great learning hub from you have an awesome day!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        maggs224 - thank you so much - it is such a pleasure to meet you on these pages.

      • maggs224 profile image

        maggs224 

        5 years ago from Sunny Spain

        Another excellent hub filled with useful information and lots of good tips. I really enjoyed the read and the photographs, I will be hitting all the relevant buttons and voting up on my way out :D

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        You are very welcome. I am glad you could stop by. Best wishes, Sally

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        5 years ago from the short journey

        Thanks for this look at macro photography--your tips are useful.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        I appreciate the praise regarding my photos and I am so glad you were able to stop by. Thank you Gina145.

      • Gina145 profile image

        Gina145 

        5 years ago from South Africa

        Your photos are fantastic. Thanks for the great tip about the best time of day to shoot insects.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Thank you Jill of alltrades I am pleased that you were able to stop by.

      • jill of alltrades profile image

        jill of alltrades 

        5 years ago from Philippines

        Thanks for these wonderful tips! You got such superb macro photos! I love them all!

      • grandmapearl profile image

        Connie Smith 

        5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

        Sally, I hope one day soon to be able to afford an upgraded camera. My Canon Powershot takes okay macro shots, but I don't seem to get the sharpness I am looking for. Still, it is loads of fun snapping those tiny bugs; you know, I have 'found' so many more than I ever thought possible since I have been deliberately looking for them. Of course, they were there all along, I just hadn't noticed them!

        I'm very glad I read this most informative article, which I have Voted Up++++ and pinned ;) Pearl

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Hello Lilly, I am so glad you enjoyed the images. Nature is truly remarkable and provides endless thrills for anyone with a macro lens. I am constantly amazed at the drama which unfolds before my eyes. Thank you so much for your comments.

      • LillyGrillzit profile image

        Lori J Latimer 

        5 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

        Thank you for this very informative article. Thank you for sharing this skill. The macro shots are exhilarating .

        There are times while rating nature photos on another site that some of the macro photos of critters make them seem unreal. Maybe because most of us have not seen life forms this close or magnified.

        Thanks again.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        You would be surprised at how good auto mode can be sometimes! I use it a lot when I do macro photography.

        Spring is on it's way and I have started to get excited about the warm days already!

      • purplmama profile image

        Peggy 

        5 years ago from The Midwest - Northern Illinois

        Ha! Yes, you're right, Sally! It is addictive. Last summer I took many images of my flowers with bees and spiders in them. I have a nice camera, but the manual is downloadable and it's B-I-G! I lack the patience to study it. : (

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Thank you so much purplmama, I am so glad you enjoyed it. I find macro photography is addictive, like a free ticket to see your own secret show. It takes lots of practice and lots of patience. Digital photography has made it that much easier. Once you have the tools, all you need are the skills! You will get there. Thank you so much for stopping by.

      • purplmama profile image

        Peggy 

        5 years ago from The Midwest - Northern Illinois

        This was fantastic! Thanks for this. I still struggle with my macro skills. Sometimes I feel as though they're hit-or-miss.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Thank you so much. Very much enjoyed looking at your hubs too.

      • nifwlseirff profile image

        Kymberly Fergusson 

        5 years ago from Villingen Schwenningen, Germany

        Great tips, and I love how polished the ladybugs' look - beautiful!

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        It is surprising what you can do with a compact digital camera which has a zoom lens. The quality of some of the more recent arrivals is pretty amazing. Thanks for voting up and for the share. I very much appreciate that

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        5 years ago from Houston, Texas

        What fun catching insects and other subjects with a macro camera lens. You have given us good ideas and your photos are excellent. Up, useful and interesting votes and will share this with my followers. All I have is my trusty digital camera with a zoom lens...nothing fancy or expensive. I admire good photography skills such as you have.

      • sallybea profile imageAUTHOR

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        5 years ago from Norfolk

        Working on it Ray. I will try to do something after Christmas! Once you start looking at the world via a macro lens you will surely be bitten by the bug! Have a great Christmas

      • raydevlin profile image

        Ray Devlin 

        5 years ago from Houston, Texas

        Good informative article Sally - do you have any others which discuss the best lenses and camera settings for such macro work?

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