9 tips to do better macro photography with insects

Doing macro photography is for a lot of photographers pure relaxation. I usually do it during walks when I want to relax a bit. Plants and flowers are beautiful and colorful subjects, but I like to practice macro photography with insects too. Here are 9 tips based on my experiences.

Get a macro lens

macro photography with a flower
I used to focus on flowers in my macro photography

This one is pretty obvious. Macro photography is all about getting really close to your subject. Standard lenses often have a minimum distance of about 30 centimeters they need to focus. Anything closer than that will be out of focus. With a proper macro lens, you can go as close as a centimeter and still have your subject sharp as a knife.

Buy a macro-lens on Amazon. I use a Nikon 60mm macro lens.

Don’t go for a wide aperture

macro photography with insects and spiders
I used a really wide aperture here (probably f4), and almost missed the focus on this one.

I like a good shallow depth of field, and in macro photography, that’s easy to get. Too easy sometimes, because often you only get a couple of millimeters of depth of field. This makes it a lot harder to get the entire insect in focus.

I’ve currently tried f8 and f11, which for landscape is plenty. In macro, however, you can go up to f16 and even f22. So make sure to boost that ISO, or bring an extra light source, like a flash.

Find loads of plants and insects in areas like the Kalmthoutste Heide near Antwerp.

Keep a bit of distance

macro photography with insects like ladybugs
I was a bit further away and then cropped a bit closer. This way I had enough depth of field to photograph the cute ladybug and this nettle.

Another trick I do for extra depth of field when doing macro photography with insects is keeping a bit of extra distance to my subject. More distance from the subject to the lens creates a bit of extra depth of field. You can later crop your photo to have the more on-top-of-it feel. Make sure you shoot in a high resolution. 😉

Focus for the eyes

macro photography with insects like flies
Here I clearly missed the focus on the eye, and had it on it’s back. Which is still okay, but not perfect.

As with portrait or animal photography, you always focus on the eyes. With insects, it’s no different. Try to focus on their eyes, or at least their head. I know it’s sometimes difficult to determine what their eyes are.

Only recently I learned that a ladybug has a tiny head sticking out and that the 2 black dots on the front of their shields are not their eyes.

Want to photograph nature in the Netherlands? I made a list of nice places to photograph the Dutch nature.

Be patient, or create the setting

macro photography with insects and bees
Bees love flowers, so wait for them in a flowery field.

Insects aren’t actors you can tell what to do. They move as they please, live to their own rhythm, and will not sit still when you push a lens in their face. However…

You can create an environment where they are comfortable. For example, I hung a little bee-hotel in my garden and planted loads of flowers. This will make sure the number of bees in my garden will grow. Which is good for nature, but also gives me more opportunities to photograph them. Win-win!

Purchase flower seeds online easily and lure insects to your garden.

Shoot continuously

macro photography with insects
I didn’t shoot continuously since I only had an SD with me, and no XQD. Seconds later it jumped to another branch, and I missed that shot!

If possible, but your camera in a continuous shooting mode when doing macro photography with insects. I have a Nikon D850 and can shoot 7 photos per second. This helps me capture the perfect image of a flying bee or a crawling ant. The animals are fast, so you have to be too.

Another added bonus of this is your higher chance of getting the right focus. With a short depth of field and you shaking and breathing, the focus constantly shifts a couple of millimeters. Without continuous, you might end up with photos focused on the insect’s butt…

Want to edit your macro shots on Instagram? Here’s a complete guide to Instagram photo-editing.

Take a lot of shots

macro photography with spiders
This guy kept walking around and moving his web, lots of the photos are out of focus because of the movement and the short depth of field. Making plenty of photos helped me still get this shot.

In the extent of the shooting continuously trick, it’s better to have too many shots. Keep shooting. You can pick the perfect shot of them when they jump. Or maybe select the best one of a bee approaching a flower. Or even of an ant eating a bit of food.

Also, regardless of what you do. A lot of shots are for the trashcan. As with any style of photography. So make sure to keep trying and shooting as much as possible.

Practice on macro photography with insects like a snail

macro photography with snails
Snails are an easy to photograph target when doing macro photography with insects

If you are beginning with macro, it’s easier to practice on subjects that aren’t too fast. Flowers and plants for example. Or snails and bugs that don’t move too fast.

Slowly work your way up to flying insects

macro photography with insects
I don’t know the English word for this, but the translation from Dutch is a faux-wasp.

After doing macro photography with insects that aren’t as fast, you can work your way up to ants. They can crawl fast! If you practice a lot you can try to do macro photography with insects that fly, like flies, bees, wasps, and butterflies. It’s all about practice and getting your focus right.

*Disclaimer: some of the links in this article are affiliate links. Every time you purchase something via these links, I get a little percentage of the shop-owner. This comes at no extra cost to you!

I can’t wait to see your macro photography with insects, so let me know in the comments where I can find your photos!