These pretty insects are common and welcome visitors to most gardens because they eat aphids. They are colourful too and worth aiming the lens at. In fact, on a bright summer's day you can easily spend a happy hour or two chasing the little critters up and down photogenic leaves.
You need to get in close for decent-sized images of ladybirds. Some compacts focus as close as 1cm so that might be an option if you do not have the required kit for your DSLR.
Depending on your SLR's lens, you might find that just reversing your lens and holding it in place can give you a good magnification. Obviously, there are no linkages with focusing and exposure so you need to experiment. Adaptors are available from places like eBay, or just use gaffer tape to hold the lens in position – obviously you need to exercise a little care and commonsense here.
Zooms do not work that well with being reversed, but if you have an old 50mm around, that would be ideal. Of course, the most convenient way of getting in really close is with a macro lens and all the major lens companies stock them.
A zoom with a macro mode will get you close, but probably not close enough so you will need to consider lens options carefully. A telezoom with a macro mode and close-up lens might work but you may need even more magnification so extension tubes are worth considering. They are sold singly (usually by the camera brands) or in sets of three (usually by the independent brands). Tubes can be used singly or in combination for greater magnification and most modern versions will give accurate autoexposure function – and maybe even autofocus.
Another option is to use a teleconverter, such as those from Kenko, Sigma and the camera brands. These give an effective increase in focal length while minimum focusing distance stays the same. A 1.4x and 2x are probably the most useful models to invest in.
You can work hand-held although the slightest bit of movement will be very noticeable working at such close distances. A tripod with a centre column which can be switched into a horizontal position, such as the award-winning Vanguard Alta Pro 283 CT
, will make it easier to get in among your flower beds. Although, a monopod will make life even easier and will ease the pressure on your aching arms. A monopod gives you flexibility, provides good support and is quick to use.
If you want a head that's easy and quick to adjust, consider trying a ball head. Vanguard's BBH-200
can be easily adjusted in every direction and supports up to 44lbs in weight.
They Move Quick
Ladybirds might appear to trundle their way along quite sedately but you will be surprised by their speed and agility when you are shooting really close up.
Get Up Early
Insects are cold-blooded which is why they race around on warm days and are more leisurely on cold ones. As a result, get up extra early and start shooting before your subjects warm up. This is a tactic that works well for other insects too including butterflies.
Focus And ISO
Use manual focus and constantly fine-adjust focus as your subject moves around. Setting a mid-aperture like f/8 will give more depth-of-field but you have to make sure that you do not compromise shutter speeds if you do that. However, even a small aperture might not be enough to give enough depth-of-field to retain sharpness across the whole of a ladybird's head and body. You just have to concentrate on what is most important to your image.
The background has a huge part to play with ladybird photography as does the leaf or plant it is sitting on. You may need to gently 'persuade' your subject to move in the most appropriate direction or sit on the right plant – from a photographic perspective. The red of traditional ladybirds looks great against green and those are the sort of shots that you see most often.