Insects. And Some Findings on Photography and Editing

Hi folks!

This is the first post of the current year dedicated to insects. To be honest most of the time I was more involved in other types of photography like landscapes, birds, architecture and airshows. However I haven’t forgotten this tiny beautiful world. How could I? Let’s be honest: insect photography is difficult but it’s one of the most rewarding genres.

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Although I’ve taken fewer insect photos than previous year, I managed to capture some very interesting creatures on the sensor. One of them is the damselfly (it’s very similar to the dragonfly, however its body is thinner). In fact it was a pair of damselflies which were mating. I must admit it’s one of the most interesting mating processes I’ve ever witnessed. Other newly photographed insects were the dragonfly and the horned bee.

Let me share with you some (further) findings on insect photography (including editing):

  1. When I go in the field to take some insect photos I usually set my camera on Shutter Priority (A or Tv). The ISO is around 400 and the shutter speed is minimum 1/250 for moving insects and 1/125 for still insects.
  2. Unless you use a macro flash (I haven’t bought one yet) I recommend you to take advantage of the sunlight as much as possible to ensure the aperture is closed (maximum f11). The depth of field is pretty small so each stop matters!
  3. Don’t take pictures of insects standing close to grass or the ground in general (unless it’s a ground without distracting elements). Better photograph them on small plants (say 0.25-0.75 Meters tall). Avoid higher plants as when wind blows these shake the most! Of course (large) trees are a different story.
  4. Avoid days when wind is blowing strongly and continually. It will be very difficult to get usable pictures (but not impossible).
  5. I either use continuous autofocus or manual focus when shooting insects. If the insect is moving I use autofocus. If the insect is still I put the camera on manual focus, set the macro report (size of the insect on sensor versus its actual size) and then move the camera towards the insect until I have it in focus. Then I use the burst mode to increase chances of getting a usable photo. This is because it’s difficult to keep focus for much time as either the plant or my camera move. The slightest move might alter the focus and render the picture unusable. In fact I use burst mode for autofocus either to ensure I “catch” the insect in a favourable position (favourable for the photographer of course 🙂 )
  6. If you’re new to macro/insect photography I suggest you don’t bother with a macro report higher than 1:1 (this means for example extender rings on the macro lens). I can tell you from my experience: even at 1:1 it’s hard to get usable results. To get the attached pictures I shot more than 1000 frames! I suggest you use the higher reports only for still subjects where it’s safe to set a tripod and you have the whole time in the world to think the photo carefully and then take it. Maybe if you use a macro flash you’d get better chances with extenders, however I cannot say because I haven’t tried this.
  7. The editing process is very time consuming for insect photos. I can even spend twice the time on editing comparing to other types! This is because for this photography genre sharpness is paramount, there should be as little noise and as few distracting objects as possible. This means for example that selective noise reduction could be applied at post-processing using an adjustment brush. And believe me, this takes more time than you can imagine! In my case it’s almost half of the editing time. The reason is that the noise reduction would need to be done gradually. Different adjustment levels might be required depending on how much the area is blurred. Also the parts in focus should not be “brushed”. It’s important to keep a natural aspect of the photo so it doesn’t look like a painting!
  8. Consequently the selection process should be done even more carefully than for other types of photos. Too much noise? Don’t edit! Not sharp enough? Don’t edit! Not the most favourable framing? Don’t edit unless you can correct this easily. Distracting background? Definitely don’t edit! You’ll thank yourself later. Keep only “la creme de la creme” as the French would say.
  9. And the final advice: shoot as much as possible! Take photos with every insect, even the ones you would consider “boring”. It’s good exercise. Take thousands of pictures if you can! Spend at least 2-3 hours for an insect shooting session and cover as much of the area as possible. You never know when good opportunities arise! And these opportunities might be pretty rare.

I hope this piece of advice is helpful to you. As always I’m looking forward for your comments. Any advice from your side might help me too!

Take care.

PS. Check these posts too:

Insects (10)

Photo Selection and Other Findings on Editing

How I Edit My Pictures


2 thoughts on “Insects. And Some Findings on Photography and Editing

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