Introduction to Insect Macro Photography (Part I)

Photo by Huub de Waard / Portrait of a little fly: Magnification 8, f/8, ISO 100 and 1/250 sec

Photo by Huub de Waard / Portrait of a little fly: Magnification 8, f/8, ISO 100 and 1/250 sec


This is a guest post by Huub de Waard, an exceptional photographer who specializes in close-up shots of insects. After reading his post, be sure to check out more of his awesome photos at his website. And, if you’re also interested in writing a guest post here on PhotoNaturalist, please contact me, thanks! –Steve

One of the most popular books that I read during my childhood was Eric in the Land of the Insects, written by the Dutch author Godfried Bomans. In this humorous fantasy, nine-year-old Eric enters the landscape painting that hangs on his wall and he discovers a world of man-sized wasps, bees, butterflies and other insects that is stunningly similar to the world of humans. Once photography became a part of my life and I purchased the Canon extreme macro lens MP-E 65 mm f/2.8, which has combined with a 2x teleconverter a maximum magnification of 10:1, my world was populated with grasshoppers, spiders, snails, flies, dragonflies and butterflies—Eric’s world.

Magnification describes the relationship between the actual size of the subject and the size of its image on the sensor of the camera. Photographing a 3 cm (1.18 inch) long blue-tailed damselfly so that its image size is 1 cm (0.39 inch) on the sensor means that the magnification is 1/3 (1:3) life-size. Dividing the size of the subject’s image on the sensor by the actual size determines the magnification. At 1:1 life-size, the size of the subject on the sensor is as big as it is in real life. Macrophotography is restricted to magnifications in the order of 1:10 to 1:1 life-size. Microphotography is the extreme form of macrophotography, dedicated to the photography of small objects from life-size to modest enlargements of up to about 20. [Read more...]

Three Quick Tips For Close-Ups

California Wild Rose / Photo by Steve Berardi

California Wild Rose / Photo by Steve Berardi

Now that spring has arrived here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time to start thinking about photographing all those wonderful wildflowers and insects. It’s the perfect season for close-up photography.

So, here are three quick tips to get you started:

#1 – Get down to your subject’s level

Many of the plants and insects that come out in the spring live very low to the ground, so your first reaction may be to photograph them from where you first spot them (standing up and looking down at them). But, many times it’s better to get down to your subject’s level and photograph them from there because it captures a more friendly point of view (almost as if you’re seeing eye-to-eye with your subject). [Read more...]

How To Focus Closer With your Lenses

Every lens has a minimum focusing distance: the closest point where the lens can get a sharp focus. Generally, the longer the focal length of the lens, the greater the minimum focusing distance.

Most of the time, this distance isn’t a problem because with longer lenses you’ll generally be photographing a distant subject.

But, those longer telephoto lenses are also great for close-up photography, because they help you isolate your subject against a specific part of the background. In these cases, this minimum focus distance often becomes a problem because many lenses won’t let you get close enough to fill the frame with a small subject (such as a wildflower or insect).

So, how do you make your lens focus closer? [Read more...]

How To Reduce Noise In Your Close-Up Photos (using Photoshop)

Photo by Steve Berardi

Photo by Steve Berardi

In close-up photography, you often use fast shutter speeds to help battle the wind or freeze the action of your subject (such as a butterfly feeding on a flower).

To get these faster shutter speeds without sacrificing your desired depth of field, your only option is to use higher ISOs (making your camera’s sensor more sensitive).

Unfortunately, at these higher ISOs, sometimes you get some really ugly noise in the background.

Well, there just happens to be a great way to reduce this noise in Photoshop. Here’s how: [Read more...]

Three Reasons to Avoid Relying on the Crop Tool

Photo by Steve Berardi

Photo by Steve Berardi

In this age of digital photo editing, it’s tempting to get lazy when you’re taking a photo out in the field and just say to yourself, “well, if I don’t like how I framed this, I could always crop it later.” But, there are a few disadvantages to relying on that crop tool too much: [Read more...]

A Fun Way To Improve Your Wildflower Photography

Photo by Vic Berardi

Photo by Vic Berardi

As spring approaches and the dreary overcast days of winter are still upon us, we anxiously await going out in the field for some wildflower photography. But, while you’re waiting for those flowers to pop up, you can still do something to help you prepare for those wildflower photos.

Over the winter, I picked up several excellent flower photography books and a few showed some techniques for indoor photography. So, I thought, why not give this a try and see if I can apply what I learned to outdoor wildflower photography. I didn’t have any studio lighting, so I decided to experiment with what I already had. [Read more...]