How to Photograph Dragonflies and Damselflies

Last Updated on May 1, 2021

dragonflies on grass

It almost seems like dragonflies and damselflies were made for macro photography. They are incredibly interesting looking and make for great subjects. They have been around longer than humans and that ancient look is incredibly beautiful.

If you are interested in photographing these winged beauties then read on for everything you need to get amazing photos of them.

Where Can You Find Dragonflies and Damselflies?

damselflies on rock

Dragonflies and damselflies can be found in a wide variety of places. They are fairly common in wetland areas, including marshes, ponds and ditches. They can also be found in trees and shrubs.

Damselflies are usually found flying around a pond or lake, but they can sometimes be seen flying near creeks or streams as well. Dragonflies tend to fly in the forested areas much more often than they fly near large bodies of water but you can definitely find them at the beach.

Dragonfly Behavior

Dragonflies have a very unique way of flying. They are extremely slow and lumbering but they can quickly change directions and speed at will. This is why it is so difficult to follow them with your camera if you are not familiar with their flight pattern.

The fact that dragonflies tend to fly near water makes them more predictable, which allows you to get some great shots of them in these locations.

Damselflies Behavior

Damselflies are extremely fast fliers. They can change direction and speed at will but they do so at a much faster pace than dragonflies. It is really hard to follow them with your camera if you do not already know what they tend to do.

For example, you might see a damselfly zig-zag back and forth while flying in the same general area for several minutes before it suddenly takes off in another direction and flies across the entire field for a few seconds before zig-zagging again.

What Photography Gear Do You Need

You will need a lens that can get clear close ups. A magnification of at least 1:1 will give you the best results.

The longer the lens, the more magnification you will get and that will help you to capture clearer pictures of them. Usually, it is best to use a 100mm f2 or f2.8 lens because it will provide you with very clear and sharp close ups of them as well as a large amount of magnification.

You must also have a tripod and you should probably also invest in a flash for quite overcast days. Dragonflies and damselflies are very fast so you need a snappy shutter speed to capture them.

You can use your camera’s shutter delay mode to avoid movement from pressing the button, but using a cable release is still recommended. This also allows you to trigger the flash with your camera.

A good camera will offer you with the ability to shoot at a fast aperture, which will allow you to use a wide open apertures as it will also reduce the depth of field for each shot.

Some cameras have a depth of field preview mode that allows you to preview the blur patterns produced by different aperture settings. This feature can save you some money and time so don’t forget to look for it on your camera if you’re just starting out.

How To Approach Photographing Dragonflies and Damselflies

One of the best ways to get great pictures of dragonflies and damselflies is to simply sit near a pond or lake and wait for them to fly over you.

This works especially well if you have an area near you where dragonflies and damselflies tend to land, such as a large tree. If there are any dragonfly or damselfly nests around then that would be a good place to check because they will often come back every few minutes to visit their offspring.

If you have a longer lens and you’re taking pictures of dragonflies and damselflies on the wing then you will need to manually focus on them. This is especially true if you have to use a shutter speed that is slower than 1/1000 of a second.

You should set your camera to autofocus and then switch it off so that it doesn’t attempt to lock onto something else while you’re trying to get the dragonfly or damselfly in focus.

Focus On Capturing Movement

Dragonfly and damselfly bodies are very thin and they have a lot of movement that makes them very interesting subjects. Capitalize on this and get pictures of them moving their wings, walking on a twig, or even flying.

How To Photograph Dragonfly and Damselflies On The Wing

If you have a long lens then you will need to use either manual focus or autofocus with a 1/1000 of a second shutter speed. If you’re using autofocus then switch it off once you have the dragonfly or damselfly in focus.

The best way to get really clear photos of them on the wing is to use a telephoto lens while shooting at 1/1000 of a second or faster. The longer your lens, the easier it will be to capture images of them on the wing.

If you’re using a shorter lens then you will need to shoot at 1/500 of a second with a telephoto zoom, or 1/250 of a second if you are using a prime lens.

Bottom Line

Dragonflies and damselflies are very common in most parts of the world and they can be captured in some great pictures. This tutorial will show you how to get the best pictures of dragonflies and damselflies in all kinds of lighting conditions. These beautiful creatures are incredibly rewarding to photograph, drop your photos in the comments below!