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Tips for Photographing Insects

Updated on July 8, 2015
LuisEGonzalez profile image

I enjoy photography and have been doing so professionally and independently for over 30 years.

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

Insect photography

Photographing insects,although not glamorous sounding, can be rewarding and easy if you plan your shoot and research locations, habits and ecosystems. Most insects have short life spans.

From days or weeks most will only be available during short times during the year. The first step is to decide what types of insects you are looking to photograph. Do they live near water, are they diurnal or nocturnal, what attracts them, as well as the time of the year. Some insects are primarily adapted to a season and will only be readily visible then.

These are some of the questions that you should ask yourself before the start of your photo session.

Most insects can easily be attracted to your garden if you plant flowers,bushes or flowers that they use to feed and lay their eggs.

You can visit ponds or lakes and peruse the edges and vegetation for hiding places. Start your photography early in the day or late in the afternoon when it's cooler, since the majority of insects are not readily active during the hotter hours.

If it rained during the night, most insects will take several minutes or longer to bask in the morning sunlight while they reach their normal body temperature. It is at this time that they are more prone to be photographed.

Although the use of a telephoto lens is recommended, most can be approached and photographed with shorter lenses.

A way for gathering information about insects species specific to your area is to seek the advice of a local nursery, botanical center or natural history society/clubs for your part of the country. They can be invaluable in providing much needed information about insect populations and habits.

The best photographs for insects can be done in a studio, but you need to have everything in place before the start of the shoot. You will need holding tanks, lights, prepared backgrounds, plant life, water etc.

A note about backgrounds; although some prefer to paint backgrounds on cardboard, these rarely appear normal in the photo. Instead shoot vegetation/natural backgrounds and use a magnified non-glossy copy as the background.

You will need to capture your subjects, transport them to the studio and release them afterward. All the time making sure that they are kept in a cool and dry container.

Most photographers find it easier to shoot at local gardens, empty lots of vegetation and their own backyard. If you plan your garden layout a season in advance, planting the right combination of flowering plants, brushes, and weeds, will yield a pleasant surprise by the amount of insects that will pay your garden a visit the following season.

Also,consider planting some herbs such as dill and leaving a small area devoid of plant life but where soil or mud is readily available as a number of butterflies and insects use these to ingest minerals from the soil.

If you can add a water source to your backyard such as a small pond, place some tall sticks above the water to attract dragonflies as this is the first spot they visit when scoping out water sources. The same holds true in ponds and lakes.

Don't forget ants, which are everywhere and are the easiest of insects to photograph and if you find them, caterpillars make great photos too.

To photograph them up close, use macro lenses in the range of at least 100mm to 200mm. To get close up photos then telephoto lenses in the range of 200mm are more than appropriate.

If you plan on collecting species do not do so from botanical gardens or preserves as this is usually illegal. If you feel that you can only get your subjects from these places, then talk to them to see if special temporary permits for capture and release are available.

There are more tips for photographing insects, I suggest that you check the web or local bookstore to avail yourself of theses resources.

Insect photography

CC BY 2.0
CC BY 2.0 | Source

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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez


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    • LuisEGonzalez profile imageAUTHOR

      Luis E Gonzalez 

      4 years ago from Miami, Florida

      sallybea: Thank you. One of my first hubs I must say.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 

      4 years ago from Norfolk

      Enjoyed reading this, some interesting info here, thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Wow. amazing, thanks for the information, I love also the pictures

    • medor profile image


      7 years ago from Michigan, USA

      So cool. Great ideas for photographing the small details of nature... thanks so much. the photos are excellent! A great way to start off my rock!


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