Friday, May 2, 2014

Entomophilia: Insect Photography Tips

By now, I've spent a lot of time on the blog talking about insects - about how much I like them, what great macro subjects they make, and how beautiful they are. However, I don't actually have a post in which I discuss tips for insect photography, so I thought I would remedy that today.

Hairstreak butterfly

Tip #1: If you haven't already, you may want to read my post on macro photography basics.
This is because, in case you hadn't noticed, insects are small. If you want to capture the intricacies of insect bodies, you will need macro equipment. The basic rules of macro photography apply, of course, regardless of your subject matter. I won't cover these here because they've already been covered, but feel free to post questions if you have any!


Tip #2: Find you some bugs!
Now is an excellent time to find insects. As the weather warms, larvae hatch and adults wake from hibernation. The best time to photograph insects is, unsurprisingly, in the early morning. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the light is best in the morning. This should always be your favored shooting time. Secondly, it's coldest in the morning. Okay, okay, I know I just said that now is a great time for insects because it's warming up. However, insects are fast little buggers. It can be very difficult to capture sharp macro images when your subject is buzzing around so quickly you can't even see its wings beating. Shooting in the morning allows you to take advantage of the slowing effects of cold on insects, increasing your chances of getting the shot you want.

Okay, that sounds reasonable, but, where can I find some cool bugs?
Well, if you can't find bugs, you aren't looking! There are more insects on the planet than any other animal. But, I understand that many of us have grown to ignore insects; the literally fly under our radars, out of sight, out of mind. You'll have to break this habit.

Insects can be found in pretty much every habitat there is, but a flower bed can often be the easiest place to start hunting for bugs. Find a spot that you like. It's even better if multiple plant species populate your flower bed - the more species of plants there are, the more species of insects will likely be attracted. You might have to sit for a little while, but soon your brain will start recognizing the multitude of flitting, buzzing, and feeding critters around you. From then on, just hone your awareness.

Skipper Butterfly
Any other advice for photographing insects? As in, how can I avoid getting stung?
Ah, the stinging question! I get it a lot. Truthfully, the vast vast majority of insects are completely harmless. Don't believe me? Pick some up! They're generally pleasant to handle, surprisingly. Of course, some insects do bite and sting - notably bees and wasps. I won't discourage you from trying to photograph these animals, though, as I believe that they are very beautiful.

In fact, bees and wasps (order Hymenoptera) usually won't sting unless they feel threatened or you invade their territory (ie, damage a nest). Granted, if you bump into one accidentally they may think you are attacking them and thus retaliate. So I would recommend keeping relatively still to photograph stinging insects.

Feel free to leave any questions about insect photography below, and, as always, thanks for reading!

(Did you see my previous post on landscape photography with a smartphone?)

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