Macro Photography: Study the Field Before You Shoot!
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!
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.
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.
Insects, Fascinating or Creepy?
Do Insects fascinate you or do they give your the creeps
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Sally Gulbrandsen