You don’t need to go to Africa on a safari trip to photograph wild animals, as there is a host of creatures in your back garden just waiting to be photographed! Just like larger animals, photographing bugs and insects requires a little skill and knowledge and I’m here to tell you how to get great insect shots…
The first hurdle is finding a subject! In late April – May, butterflies, bees and dragonflies become active, but other creatures, like spiders and beetles become active earlier in the year. Information in booklets or online can help you learn all about different types of bugs, and how and when to find them.
Next, how to get close to them! Slow-moving bugs should not present much of a problem, but butterflies and dragonflies are prone to flying off at the slightest disturbance.
The best time to shoot these insects is often the early morning, before they have had a chance to warm up and become fully active. Approach the subjects slowly and smoothly, and ensure your shadow does not fall over the creature, as it is almost sure to fly off.
Lenses with longer focal lengths such as 105mm, or even as long as 180mm are better than ones with a shorter focal length, as you can create frame-filling shots from further away, and thereby avoid disturbing your subject.
Choose a wide aperture to blur out the background and remove distracting features from the image. The shutter speed you need depends on your subject. If you are photographing an insect that constantly flaps it’s wings, choose a faster shutter speed than an insect that remains very still (unless you want to cause the wings to blur intentionally, in which case you need to use a speed low enough to blur the wings, but fast enough to avoid camera shake).
A good tip is to use manual focus. Focusing is very important, as the tiniest error can ruin shots, and no matter how good your camera’s autofocus system is, manual focus gives you much more creative control. Keeping the insect’s body parallel to the camera body ensures that as much of the insect as possible remains in focus. If you are photographing the creature from a different angle, make sure you obey the rules of general animal photography and focus on the face.
Thanks for reading, I hope these tips help, feel free to leave a comment if you have any comments on the article, or tips I have missed!