I am frequently asked how I obtain the macro images of insects
I post on ePHOTOzine. This article aims to shed a little light on my
For my macro photography I use Sigma's 180mm f/3.5 DG Macro Lens. This
focal length is ideal for the subjects I take as some tend to be very
skittish and this gives me the working distance I require.
I nearly always use a tripod to support the camera. This enables me to
get right down to ground level and use much longer shutter speeds.
Also, if it's windy I can stay in position until the wind dies down.
Time of day
I find it's best to work early morning or late evening as insects are a
lot more approachable, being either cool in the morning or just
settling down to roost. Another thing with the early morning approach
is sometimes they are covered in dew which adds to the overall shot,
and at times it is possible to tease the subject further up the stem or
branch into a more pleasing position. I find cool cloudy days are the
Read up on your subject, location, habitat, time of year etc - it's no
use going looking for damselflies in the middle of winter on a traffic
It helps to have loads of patience. There have been innumerable times
when I have got into position and the insect has decided to
hop/jump/fly away. With practice you can minimize this and by knowing
your subject you find the best way to approach, I find it best to keep
taking a few shots as you get closer so if you do get into position and
find the subjects disappeared all is not lost.
Keep your eyes open as you never know when an opportunity will arise.
There will be many a time something will appear on the periphery of
your vision that will require further investigation, and may yield a
few good shots. Try just covering a small area, say three or four
metres square, as a great deal of things can be found, especially in
long grass and brambles.
I carry a variety of clamps in my bag for fastening grasses together or
keeping them out of the way so they don’t intrude in the
shot. I also have a small pair of scissors to do a little bit of
gardening round the subject where possible. I use small sticks, picked
up from your location and pushed into the ground, to make ideal
temporary braces so perches are a little more stable while you take the
shot. I also carry a small 12in reflector to throw a little light back
onto the subject when required.
And lastly be prepared to get bitten, scratched and stung in pursuit of
this particular form of photography.
Putting the above into practice
Here's one of those situations when walking back
to the car after a couple of hours being out and about and not having a
lot to show for it, a bit of movement caught my eye and, upon further
investigation, I found a longhorn beetle. After approaching slowly I
could see it wasn’t in a hurry to go anywhere so I decided to
bend the grass down and clamp it to the top of my bag so I could get a
better shot at it
After taking a few images I decide it could do with a little more light
on the underside and proceeded to lay the reflector down to throw a
little of the light back onto the underside of the beetle.
resulted is this little beast, taken at ISO200, 1/4secc at f/25 to
ensure both antenna where in focus.
While by no means being a comprehensive way in which I work, I
hope this article gives enough insight to go and try it yourself.
Words and pictures Chris Miles
ePHOTOzine hasn't tested the Sigma 180mm used here by Chris
but we do have tests of the Tamron 180mm and the Sigma 150mm macro lenses.