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Photographing Insects

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Photographing Insects - Tips on photographing bees, plus other garden bugs and where to find them!

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Category : Animals / Wildlife
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Words and images by John Gravett of Lakeland Photographic Holidays.

Insects make great macro subjects and we're going to look at the best way to photograph them. The summer months are good for photographing bees and wasps but as we've experienced quite a bit of warm weather recently, you still should be able to find the odd specimen in your garden. There are plenty of other insects for you to take macro images of, too.
Bees
 

Kit Suggestions

A DSLR with an APS-C sensor, such as the Canon EOS 7D, will give a bigger subject image equivalent distances while a macro lens will get you close to your subject for frame-filling shots. Some supplementary lighting – either on-camera flash with a diffuser, a ringflash, or a dedicated macro-flash setup - will also come i handy too. 

How To Photograph Them

There are two approaches to photographing bees, flies and bugs, the first is to select an individual bloom / blossom flower, and wait for the subject to come to it. This guarantees a good flower specimen, but needs a whole lot of patience and an inordinate amount of luck. The other method is to stalk your prey.

Small insects are sensitive to quick movement, shadows etc. so use a longer macro lens and approach with care, or they'll simply fly off. Whenever I shoot macro, my macro lens is switched to manual focus. f/22 is a good starting point for aperture, and be aware that on a head on shot, even at small apertures, the whole insect will not be in focus, so take care, however daft it may sound, to focus on the eyes. From above or from the side, overall sharpness can be attained more easily.

Choose your flower and background with care too. A flower with a large "trumpet" where the nectar is at the end of a funnel – will tend to give you pictures of the back-end of a bee! Flatter flowers, small buds and blossom, which the bee is unable to climb into, will provide a better angle to get side-on or even head-on shots of your subjects.

If you are using flash – and with fast moving subjects – it's much easier to do so – as you need both a reasonable shutter speed, and a small aperture of f/22 or smaller to give any depth of field. The light from the flash will also give some reflection which on such a dark-toned subject, really lifts it. Do make sure your background is close to your subject when using flash otherwise it can look like your shots were taken at night, unless you're working on a really sunny day. 

So sometime when you have an hour to spare, get out into the garden with your macro lens and a flash and go on an insect safari.


 

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