Photography of Insects: Basics of Camera Settings & Shooting

The world we live in is full of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur. From the tallest mountains to the deepest oceans, there’s no shortage of breathtaking landscapes and stunning scenes to admire.

But sometimes, the true greatness of our planet lies in the infinitely small things present in it. A whole sub-world of textures, colors, and shapes that very few people have had the opportunity to explore up close.

photography of insects
photography of insects

Photography of Insects provides a compelling glimpse into the extraordinary world of minuscule creatures that coexist with us.

As photographers, our mission is to document evidence of nature’s wonders and highlight the beauty in the minute details surrounding us.

Insects, often overlooked, exemplify the incredible diversity and complexity inherent in nature. Through the capabilities of the camera lens, we can explore their mesmerizing realm and bring their fascinating stories to the forefront.

Photography of insects has the potential to transform these microscopic beings into the protagonists of our photographs, revealing an aspect of their existence that remains obscured to the naked eye.

Why Do We Like to Photograph Insects?

why do we like to photograph insects
why do we like to photograph insects

Insects are a subject of great interest in photography due to their striking physical characteristics and natural beauty.

Their alluring color combinations, unique complexion, and physical form could be mistaken for something out of a science fiction movie making insects one of the most captivating subjects a photographer can capture.

Moreover, capturing the essence of insects in photographs presents a thrilling opportunity to explore the wonders of Mother Nature.

Photographers become adventurers, seeking out the smallest expressions of natural beauty in the form of these fascinating creatures.

The satisfaction of returning from a photographic expedition with a portrait that showcases the intricate details of an insect’s face, eyes, and “armor” is indescribable.

Interestingly, the appeal of photographing insects extends beyond their rarity or conservation status.

Even common insects such as ladybugs and worker ants can evoke interest and appreciation when presented through the lens of a skilled photographer.

Any tiny being, no matter how commonplace, has the potential to captivate and inspire through the art of photography.


digital single lens reflex dslr
digital single lens reflex dslr

Macro photography focuses on capturing meticulous, up-close shots of miniature subjects like insects. Achieving high-quality results in this specialized field requires the proper equipment.

A digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera and a dedicated macro lens represent the two essential requirements for photographing insects in full detail.

While alternative accessories exist, such as extension tubes and macro filters, they are frequently viewed as more affordable alternatives and may not match a dedicated macro lens for quality.

If no other option is available, these accessories can function but the final image may not impress as profoundly.

However, for those with only a compact camera, impressively capturing insects remains feasible by utilizing the “Macro” mode.

Still, it merits noting that macro outcomes from a DSLR camera have no comparison, as they often proffer superior resolution and clarity when photographing macro insect portraits.


external flash
external flash

Applying an external flash profoundly impacts the final image, especially when photographing insects.

For those profoundly devoted to macro photography, investing in a flash accessory is eminently recommendable. Specifically, a ring flash or circular flash constitutes a type of flash fashioned for insect photography.

This form of flash is precisely circular, placed adjacent to the lens, commonly surrounding it, to provide even illumination enveloping the entire insect.

The primary benefit of this flash encompasses complete control over shutter speed, enabling higher shutter speeds sans concern of underexposure. Via higher shutter speeds, photographers can banish blurry portraits and seize sharp, meticulous insect captures.

In synopsis, a ring flash or circular flash for macro insect photography is immensely advisable, as it furnishes balanced lighting and utter liberty to adjust the shutter speed to the desired effect.


Macro photography of insects can be a pleasant and rewarding hobby, but to achieve great photographs, knowledge about insects’ behavior and habitats is crucial.

While the author provides some helpful tips, anyone interested in this kind of photography should obtain an insect guide or find resources specialized in the types of insects they wish to photograph.

By studying the behavior, timing, and locations where certain insects typically emerge, photographers can significantly increase their chances of capturing stunning images.

Numerous online resources offer valuable information, including articles on Google or Wikipedia. To get started, some practical advice is offered.

For example, dragonflies and damselflies are often near water such as ponds or lakes, while butterflies and bees feed on flowers. Photographers should search for these insects in public parks, gardens, or green spaces with abundant blooms.

In summary, for those passionate about macro photography of insects, comprehending the behavior and environments of these tiny creatures is essential.

Using an insect guide or online resources, photographers can learn more about specific insects they aim to capture and hone their skills accordingly.

With patience, perseverance, and proper knowledge, macro photographers can seize stunning shots of these beautiful and fascinating beings.

Tips and Tricks for Photography of Insects

tips and tricks for photography of insects
tips and tricks for photography of insects

Here are some tips and tricks for photographing insects in the field:

Shoot from their height

To get good shots of insects, you need to shoot from their perspective. Often insects are found at the tops of plants or on higher surfaces.

Get down to their level by shooting from the same height or even lower. shooting from their height will give your photos an interesting angle and the insects will appear larger in the frame.

Highlight its interesting elements

Insects often have fascinating features like compound eyes, slender limbs, spiral antennae, colorful wing patterns, etc.

Position your shoot to highlight these interesting elements which make the insects beautiful. Place them in a way that draws attention to these details. Use shadows and spotlights to accentuate textures.

It’s like going fishing. You have to be patient

Photographing insects requires a lot of patience. Many insects are skittish and do not sit still for long. You have to wait for the perfect moment when they land in a good position and remain motionless.

Try slowly and carefully moving closer to the insect without scaring it off. Shoot in burst mode to increase your chances of getting a sharp shot.

Stillness and stealth are key when photographing insects. It’s like angling for fish. You have to wait for them to get into the right position before casting your lens. With enough patience and practice, you can capture gorgeous photos of insects in their natural habitat.

When is the Best Time to Photograph Insects?

Some of the best times for photographing insects are:

Dawn and dusk: Many insects are most active during the early morning and late evening hours. This is a great time to spot and photograph them. The soft lighting also produces amazing photos.

After rain: Insects are stimulated and highly active after a rainfall. You may spot insects emerging from cocoons, mating rituals, flower feeding, etc. The landscape is also greener and lush after rain.

Hot and sunny days: Some insects are warmest on hot sunny days, especially butterflies and dragonflies. They spread and extend their wings, looking stunning. You’ll also see insects feeding on flowers and nectar.

Seasonal periods: Certain insects are only active during specific seasons. For e.g. fireflies emerge in summer, mayflies in spring, monarchs in fall, etc. Photographing them during their active season will yield the best results.

Insect aggregations: Large aggregations of insects like termite swarms, moth migrations, ant trails, etc can produce dramatic photos. Try observing in places where you notice a flurry of insect activity.

Indoor photography: Some insects like light dependent insects, insect zooms and macros can be easily photographed indoors using proper lighting setups and backgrounds. You have more control over exposures and compositions.

Action shots: Catching insects in flight or while feeding/mating requires good timing and panning/tracking skills. Practice a lot to master sharp action shots of insects.

Settings for Correct Photography of Insects

settings for correct photography of insects
settings for correct photography of insects

ISO sensitivity

Once you get used to it, you will be able to set the ISO sensitivity arbitrarily, but at first, we recommend that you prioritize “ISO AUTO” and stop the movement in order to obtain a shutter speed that does not blur.

White balance

Setting the white balance is key to reproducing the beautiful colors of insects. “AUTO” is fine, but when shooting outdoors, it is better to set it to “Sunny” so that the colors will match when shooting continuously.


To faithfully reproduce the colors of insects, aim from a “front light” position. “Backlighting” is recommended for dramatic expressions such as silhouettes of insects. For insects, controlling light with a flash is also important.


When photographing living creatures, it is essential to focus on their eyes. When photographing a stationary insect, focus on the eye.

Exposure mode and aperture/shutter speed

When shooting stationary insects, set the exposure mode to “A (aperture priority) mode” in order to control the amount of bokeh. If you want to increase the depth and reproduce the details of the insect, narrow down the aperture (increase the aperture value). 

When shooting flying insects, set the camera to “S (shutter priority) mode” and shoot at 1/3200 sec or more, and you will be able to freeze the movement of the insect with little blur.

In order to capture the insects clearly, it is necessary to narrow down the aperture to some extent. 

The depth of field of the OM SYSTEM is two steps deeper than that of the full-frame, so for example, to obtain the depth of field equivalent to that of a full-frame F16, shooting with the OM SYSTEM at an aperture of F8.0 will give almost the same depth of field. 

The advantage is that you can get a faster shutter speed or shoot at a lower ISO sensitivity.

Depth composition

If you try to shoot a small insect in a large size, the depth of field becomes extremely shallow, and even if you stop down the aperture, you may not be able to obtain sufficient depth of field. 

Depending on the model, the OM SYSTEM allows focus stacking, allowing you to take pictures with a deep depth of field that cannot be obtained even with a narrowed aperture. It can be said that it is an essential function to express the details of insects.

Focus mode

S-AF is recommended for stationary insects, and C-AF is recommended for flying insects. If “S-AF + MF” or “C-AF + MF” can be selected depending on the model, setting “AF + MF” to “ON” is convenient because you can manually adjust the focus after focusing.

Pro capture mode

Because it is difficult to keep track of small insects in the screen, using Pro Capture mode increases the probability of capturing the moment an insect takes off. 

Pro capture mode stores data in the camera while the shutter button is half-pressed. This is a function that retroactively records from the moment the shutter button is fully pressed. 

RAW data (20 million pixels) can also be recorded. When shooting in Pro Capture mode, we recommend using a UHS-II type high-speed SD memory card.