Insect Photography Tips

Close-up photography is a must for insects; they are small and intricate and therefore require attention to detail. Use the appropriate equipment to get the best results; this includes a macro lens which is designed for extreme close-ups.You will also find other tools of the trade useful, like a tripod and a reflector.



Get in Close

Photographing insects-1

A macro lens is essential if you want to take truly close-up shots. You’ll need a specialty lens with a 50mm – 200mm focal length.

Your camera may be hand-held or used with a tripod, but be as quiet as you can to prevent scaring the insect away.

Focus on the creature, making sure it is sharp. Use a shallow DOF (depth of field) to create a completely blurred out background and make the bug stand out more.


Use Creative Angles

Bee on a red flower

Think creatively for dramatic photos. Go above the creature slowly and quietly to photograph from an interesting angle.

Your image can be even more striking if it includes a colorful flower. One possible technique is to stand above a flower and wait for an insect to land on it – a flower that has a lot of pollen for the taking will usually tempt a creature or two.


Keep it in Focus

Portrait shot of a praying mantis on leaves

Keeping an insect in focus is very tough if you are using a macro lens and handholding the camera too. This is because when you use a shallow depth of field, you give yourself a smaller margin for error. Because of this fact, you should always use a tripod to avoid blur, and use the smallest aperture possible.

Use auto and manual focus and see which one works better for you; sometimes auto takes a while to “find” the subject you want. For larger insects, focus on the head.


Capture Moving Insects

A dragonfly rests on a blade of grass

Flying insects provide even more difficulty in avoiding camera blur. Fortunately, you can avoid blur by choosing a fast shutter speed of 1/250s and above or by using flash to freeze the action.

Remember to put your camera on a tripod and use a cable release, a remote, or the camera’s self-timer to take the image. Remember that by pressing the shutter, you cause a slight movement, and when the image is magnified, any blur will be apparent.


Look for Vivid Colors

Beautiful butterfly on red carnations close-up

Consider using a ring flash; this is a flashgun that is in the shape of a doughnut and fits on the end of your lens. The resulting image has an even, shadowless finish, perfect for insects as it highlights their details without creating a shadowy distraction.

Zooming in close means that the striking contrast between colors is very clear; you can even bring an insect indoors and create a set up with a colorful flower.


Catch them in Action

Close-up of giant ants fighting

Insects don’t just sit around on flowers all day. They have daily jobs to do.

To photograph an ant, get low on the ground (use a mat to rest your camera on) and photograph the insect while it is engaging in its daily tasks. You may have to use a fill-in flash if the sun is not very bright so there is a little bit more detail on the insect. Because they are so small, make sure your focus is perfect and on the insect, not the background. Turn the mode dial to AV (Aperture Priority) mode and select a large aperture (f/2-f/5.6) for a blurred background.


Recommended Settings

Insects are very small and always look best when they stand out from the background. Therefore, use a shallow depth of field, usually f/2.8 – as a result, you should be able to have a relatively fast shutter speed too.

Insects move quickly, so don’t be afraid to use sports mode since it allows you to capture subjects that are moving rapidly.


Recommended Equipment

A macro lens is important if you want to take very sharp close-up images, but there are less expensive alternatives. You can buy attachments called extension tubes that give great close-ups; you can also buy filters that magnify giving the close up look. Both work well although the quality may not be as high as a macro lens. It is good to remember that extension tubes work best with a bright lens (like a 50mm lens with f/1.8 or lower aperture).

Use a tripod or monopod whenever possible. Use colored cards to make quick and attractive backdrops whether you’re photographing insects indoors or out.



There are many insects out there in varying colors, shapes, and sizes. These are just some of the reasons why insect photography is so appealing.

You need to be patient since insects are hard to spot and they can move around quickly.

If necessary you can even bring an insect indoors to take some shots, albeit gently. Afterward, always return it to where it was found. Since insects are everywhere, there is no excuse not to go out and find some to photograph.

Attila Kun

Attila is the founder and editor-in-chief of Exposure Guide. He is an avid photographer, graphic designer, bedroom DJ and devoted Mac addict. Attila got his first DSLR camera, a Canon 10D, back in 2003 and he has been hooked on photography ever since.