Summer and early autumn is a great time to photograph insects. They are everywhere! In fact, these diverse invertebrates account for over half of all identified species on Earth. Look around, and you will find all kinds of these six-legged critters—from the beautiful to the bizarre—flying, crawling, hopping, calling, and, of course, laying eggs for next year’s installments in their on-going life cycles.
Here are a few pointers for making your insect shots successful:
• Get close up. Move your camera in progressively, shooting a few shots and then getting closer. Dedicated macro lenses work great for insect shots. While I use all of the whole range of Sigma macro lenses, I often grab the longer focal lengths for these diminutive arthropods because longer lenses minimize the field of view, thus decreasing distractions. Plus, you can shoot from further away, reducing the chance of wary critters scampering or flying away.
• Use a tripod. Because of the high magnifications in macro photography, camera shake can be a big issue. Optical stabilization helps in brightly lit situations where hand-holding is possible, but for most of my shots, which include darker environments and small apertures, I use tripod.
• Consider using a flash. For some shots I use natural lighting, but I also use a variety of flashes, including hot shoe flashes, such as the Sigma EF530 DG Super Flash, to provide a bit of fill. I also photograph with the Sigma EM-140 DG Macro Ring Flash, which produces more even lighting on subjects.
• Be green. Conscientious photography is good photography. Capturing beetles, true bugs, and many other insects will not harm them, but be careful of fragile specimens, such as butterflies and moths. Always return any captive animals to where you found them.
Learn all you can about your subjects. If you love shooting insects, pick up these two books:
• Insectsby Herbert S. Zim and Clarence Cottam. This is a great beginner’s tool and the best place to start in identifying any unknown insect.
• Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America by Eric Eaton and Kenn Kaufman. The color photographs, Eaton’s engaging prose, and the practical layout of this book make it super-handy for identifying and learning about all kinds of insects.
Also consult bugguide.net, a great web resource with experts who can help you with difficult-to-identify insects.
To see insect photos in my new “Curious Critters” series, check out the slide show on my home page, www.fitzsimmonsphotography.com.