How To Shoot Insect Macro Photography

macro image of bee head

Insect macro photography is a type of photography that focuses on capturing high-resolution images of close-up shots of insects. Macro photography in general focuses on up close or magnified objects, but insect macro takes it to an extreme level.

What’s really interesting about this type of photography is not only the beautiful detail captured, but also how it highlights the little aspects that are often overlooked by humans and animals alike. Read on for everything you need to know to take great insect macro photographs.

What Gear Do You Need?

Camera

A good macro camera is the second most important piece of equipment you need to get started. Since you are focusing on very close objects you want a DSLR that can handle a good macro lens. Check out our recommended macro photography cameras.

Macro Lens

The most important part of your macro photography gear setup is a macro lens. They are designed to be very sharp and handle the extreme close focus situations that you’ll encounter when shooting macro photos.

Here is a list of popular lenses for insect macro photography:

The Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM produces amazing results and offers great value for the money, making it a great choice for beginners.

The Canon 100mm f/2.8 FL is a great lens for those who already have experience with macro photography and want to upgrade to a more powerful lens.

The Nikon 105mm f/2.8 PC Nikkor Macro produces amazing photos that have incredible detail and are sharp even at the tiny subject sizes you’ll see in insect macro photography.

The Nikon 105mm f/2.8 AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor prime lens is one of the sharpest macro lenses money can buy and produces amazing results for insect photography.

The Olympus 120mm f/4 Macro lenses are sharp, produce amazing detail and are very flexible.

Tripod

A good tripod is essential to taking great insect macro photos, since you’ll be dealing with very slow shutter speeds. Look for one with a quick release plate so you can quickly mount your camera and get the shot. Also look for one that’s sturdy enough to handle the weight of your camera and your gear.

Insect Macro Photography Settings

ISO Setting

The ISO setting is how you set your camera to adjust how sensitive the sensor is to changes in light. If you are shooting outside you typically want to set it as low as possible while still being able to take a photo without using a flash. So if your camera has an ISO of 100 and it’s bright out, try setting it at 75 or below. If it’s really dark outside, like a forest at night, try shooting with the ISO on 800 or 1600.

Shutter Speed

The shutter speed is how long the shutter remains open. The longer the shutter stays open, the more light and movement you’ll capture in your photo. So if you are shooting an insect flying at a slow speed (1/1000) you’ll get a great photo of that action. If you are taking multiple photos while it is still moving though (1/15 or slower), your subject will be blurry because of the movement.

Aperture

The aperture is the opening in your lens that lets light into the camera. The smaller the opening, like a pinhole, the more light you’ll have to work with in a dark situation. Aperture is measured in f-stops: for example f/16. The lower the number (f/2), your photo will have more focus and less depth of field because your subject won’t be in focus and other parts of the image will be out of focus too. So to maximize the depth of field in your shot, you want a small aperture (like f/16).

Focus

A lot of insect macro photography is about getting the focus just right. This is because insects are very tiny and can be hard to see on the camera screen. So if you have trouble seeing the object you are photographing, turn on live view and adjust your focus with the manual function.

Tips for Macro Insect Photography

Use a tripod

A tripod is essential to taking great macro photos of insects. It will allow you to take longer exposure shots without having to worry about accidentally moving the camera. If you don’t have a tripod, use any stable surface or rest the camera against something that won’t shake or move.

Keep still

The lens on your camera actually moves around to adjust all the different parts in the image and you need that action to get a great photo. So keep your back straight and try to stay motionless.

Shoot RAW

Shoot in RAW so that you can adjust the image after the shot is taken. This also gives you more flexibility for working with your photos later on in Photoshop or other photo editing software and will allow you to make different adjustments if needed.

Turn your flash on

If you’re taking photos in the shade or during the day, you’ll need to keep your shutter speed as low as possible. If it is too low when you take a shot and there’s not much light, the camera will try to make up for the lack of light by overexposing the photo. So turn on your flash so that the camera doesn’t overexpose but you still get a good amount of light in your shot.

Types of Insects to Photograph

These insects are ideal for macro photography:

  • Stick insect
  • Grasshopper
  • Crickets
  • Ladybugs
  • Beetles
  • Bees
  • Mantis
  • Flies
  • Butterflies
  • Centipedes

Bottom Line

As with all photography, learning how to take a great macro picture of an insect takes practice. The more you do it and learn about the different settings of your camera, the better you’ll get.

If you have any questions about taking macro shots or anything else about photographing insects, feel free to ask questions in the comments below! I’d love to hear from you and answer any questions I can.