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Macro Photography Tips: Study the Field Before You Shoot

Photographing bugs and insects is quite addictive! I hope you will enjoy exploring the natural world with me.

Ladybird (or, ladybug)

Ladybird (or, ladybug)

How to Successfully Photograph Insects

It is estimated that there are around a million identified species of insect. But there is 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.

Before You Go Out

  • 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!

While You're Photographing

  • 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!

After You Come Home

  • Check your clothing and body when you get home. Ticks can cause Lyme 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.
Mottled umber moth caterpillar

Mottled umber moth caterpillar

White against pink background

White against pink background

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 that 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.



Choose the Correct Time of Day

It is important that you 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! Your photo will depend on it. Here is a ladybird taking flight.

Study the habitat! Your photo will depend on it. Here is a ladybird taking flight.

© 2012 Sally Gulbrandsen


Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on May 18, 2015:


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

Thank you for the vote up.


poetryman6969 on May 18, 2015:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on August 31, 2014:


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.


Bron Praslicka from Dallas / Fort Worth area of Texas on August 31, 2014:

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.


Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on April 28, 2014:


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.


Paige from New Orleans, LA on April 28, 2014:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 16, 2014:

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:)


kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on January 16, 2014:

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!

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 16, 2014:

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


kidscrafts from Ottawa, Canada on January 16, 2014:

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)!

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on December 03, 2013:


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.


Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on December 03, 2013:

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!

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on September 07, 2013:

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

maggs224 from Sunny Spain on September 07, 2013:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on August 17, 2013:

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

RTalloni on August 17, 2013:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on August 11, 2013:

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

Gina145 from South Africa on August 11, 2013:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on August 05, 2013:

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

jill of alltrades from Philippines on August 05, 2013:

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

Connie Smith from Southern Tier New York State on August 05, 2013:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on March 24, 2013:

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.

Lori J Latimer from Central Oregon on March 24, 2013:

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.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on February 01, 2013:

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!

Peggy from The Midwest - Northern Illinois on January 31, 2013:

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. : (

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 31, 2013:

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.

Peggy from The Midwest - Northern Illinois on January 31, 2013:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 30, 2013:

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

Kymberly Fergusson from Germany on January 30, 2013:

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

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on January 21, 2013:

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 Woods from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2013:

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.

Sally Gulbrandsen (author) from Norfolk on December 24, 2012:

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

Ray Devlin from Houston, Texas on December 23, 2012:

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