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  • Cindy Ellis

Photographing Insects and Bugs

· When and Where do I find bugs?

  • Bugs like warm weather. When cooler like in the morning and evening, bugs move slower and may be easier to photograph.

  • What bushes or plants do certain insects prefer?

  • What is their food source or where do they live?

Flowers, and plants

Dragonflies live on the water.

Ant hills, nests, hives, etc

Bait them with sugar water. Remember you may bait ants as well.

·Lens choice

  • Macro lens will allow you to get closer to an object and get more detail in the object.

  • Every lens has minimum focus distance so know how close your lens can focus.

  • If your current lens does not focus close enough, consider macro filter set. It magnifies the image so you lens can focus closer. Some macro filter sets even give the image a 3D effect.

  • Is it better to stand back and zoom in so you don’t disturb the creature or get stung?

The chart above from Nikon USA reminds us that there is a ideal working distance when using taking photos with a macro lens.

Focus is key. The closer you are to a subject the more accurate your focus has to be.

  • You need to make sure your camera is focusing on the insect.

  • Sometimes the cameras focus on the thing with most mass not the insect.

  • When the camera is not focusing on the insect consider the following

Limit your focus area by choosing single point area focus.

Most close up modes allow you to move the point of focus.

Choose the appropriate focus mode. Single point or continuous.

Single point locks focus at a certain distance or spot.

Continuous tracks the moving bug.

Preventing a blurry photograph.

  • Maintain a shutter speed of at least 1/250 second to stop the action of moving bug.

  • Remember wind can move the flower that the bug is sitting and cause blurry photos. Consider a solid wind barrier.

  • Remember camera movement can cause blurry photos. Consider a tripod and shutter release.

Remote Camera Trigger.

  • Newer cameras can connect to your mobile device via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth allowing for remote live shooting. In other words, you can see the image on your mobile device and trigger the camera when the bug moves into the field of view of the camera. Some apps even allow you to move the point of focus as well.

Depth of field = zone of acceptable sharpness in front and behind the point of focus.

  • Decide how much of the background is important in your photo.

  • Choosing the aperture priority mode you can control the background blur.

Larger number apertures=broad depth of field (more in focus)

Larger aperture numbers (f16 f32) require more light.

See example of butterfly below.

Smaller number apertures=shallow depth of field (more background blur)

Smaller aperture numbers (f1.8, f2.8) require less light.

See example of honey bee below.


  • When the insect is darker than the background, it will be more distinct/detailed.

  • The spider web makes an interesting background.

  • Bright backgrounds often are challenging. A bright background produces either a silhouette or an image that does not standout from its background. If the background is too bright then either add some light to the foreground or place an object behind to block or filter the sun. 5 in 1 reflectors often contain a black background to block the sun or a translucent background to filter sunlight. If you camera has a spot meter then use it.

Do you know about the weekly photo challenge?

This week (Sept 27) = insect photography.

Use these tips above to complete the photo challenge.

Want to share some photos -- email Cindy

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