More photo tips! I must stress that I am no kind of expert in any way, these are just tips and techniques that seem to have worked for me in the past. If anyone has any other suggestions of improvements on what I've written, please let me know!
Here are my previous articles:
Small things that make big differences
Setting up a macro shoot
Bug photography is pretty high up on my list of favorite things to do. Even when I end up without any results that I'm happy with, the experience of running around in the warm weather sticking my nose in the dirt is immensely enjoyable for some reason. I am by no means anywhere near an expert on the subject, but I have spent a lot of time doing it, and have learned some things along the way that I'd like to share with you:
Where to look:
As those who are afraid of bugs know, they are absolutely everywhere, and you cannot escape them. However, there are some places that usually yeild more results than others. I've found that the best place for bug photography is typically an unkempt open field. There are a wide array of bugs that love open fields. I've repeatedly found grasshoppers, beetles, flies, ladybugs, bees and several species of butterflies in large quantities whenever I've found a good open field with long, unmowed grass. Forests are a good area as well, but you'll run into a few more probelms. When dealing with flying bugs such as butterflies, you may need to chase them from place to place for a bit before you're able to get a good shot. Spiderwebs are greatly abundant in wooded areas, and while spiders can make lovely photography subjects, you may end up destroying many homes or getting a bite or two on an off-trail excursion. It is also more likely that you will end up with poor lighting if your
subject is in a heavily shaded area. All this aside, forests will provide you with an opportunity to have beautiful bokeh in your image, which is a definite upside. Another great location is your local botanical garden or arboretum. As long as you don't mind the stares from the other patrons as you chase bugs around with your camera, these locations are full of butterflies and bees who are drawn to all of the beautiful plantlife.
When to go:
While a harsh midday sun is not ideal for most styles of photography, I've found it to be quite beneficial when photographing bugs. First off, bugs simply seem to be most active during midday, so it is when you'll have the most opportunity to find a good subject. Also, since you will be shooting macro at very close range, your aperture will need to be relatively narrow to make sure your entire subject is in focus (I usually have it at around f/7 - f/10), and as bugs are quite often moving subjects, you will have to have a pretty quick shutter speed as well. If you have a lower level camera like I do, turning up your ISO any higher than 200 typically results in a noticeable amount of grain. With a low ISO, quick shutter speed, and relatively narrow aperture, strong lighting will be needed to get a good, bright exposure. This being said, pay attention to your angle and try to avoid harsh shadows.
The early morning hours, just as the sun is coming up, are also excellent for bug photography. I have recently discovered that ladybugs love this hour, and I was able to find more than I knew what to do with on my last early morning excursion. On top of this, these bugs are usually still sleeping, which means that you'll have a still subject, and can lower your shutter speed to compensate for the dimmer lighting. And to top it off, you'll also occasionally find a bug still covered in morning dew, which is a stunning sight!
I've gone over most of this in the previous section. A quick shutter speed for your moving subject is usually a good choice. You also want your aperture to be narrow enough so that your entire subject is in focus, but wide enough so that you have a nice blurred background, as grassy areas are jam packed with distractions. As mentioned earlier, I usually use f/7 - f/10, depending on how far I am from the bug and what is in my background.
I also highly recommend having your shutter on continuous release, and clicking away. Your moving subject will go through hundreds of different positions as you're photographing it, and the perfect pose may come and go in half a second. Having continuous release on as you shoot will give you a much greater chance of capturing that wonderful, dynamic pose.
other things to look out for:
Perspective is very important in bug photography. A lot of people will go straight to photographing them froma birds eye view. This is the angle that people typically think of/see bugs from, so it is usually not very interesting to look at. Of course all rules of acceptions, but I'd say the vast majority of the time it is best to get right down to their level and shoot parallel to them. This brings the viewer down into their world, and gives them a perspective they don't normally see.
you need to pay very, very close attention to detail! The ground is full of numerous distractions that will poke their way into your photo. Make sure you examine each photo you take, and remove any sticks or rocks or blades of grass that are taking attention away from your main subject. Small changes can make a huge difference!
Also, remember that not all bugs are pretty little butterflies and ladybugs. While you are sitting there trying to get the perfect angle, at some point you will almost definitely get crawled on, poked, prodded, bitten, stung, or buzzed at. Try not to be afraid of the not-pretty bugs, and stay calm and still when they make annoying noises in your ear so you don't scare off your subject.
Be persistant! I cannot stress this enough! particularly with flying bugs, you will almost always have to chase them for quite a bit before they'll get used to you and let you get close. I've come to find that certain species of butterfly are more timid than others, and sometimes I've had to follow them for up to half an hour. Even if you put this much time into and don't end up with any photos you like, don't get discouraged! Persistance is incredibly important!
If you made it this far, thank you so much for reading!