There’s a whole wide world out there that is just waiting to be discovered and photography gives us a glimpse of what it has to offer. Often, the most amazing things about the world are left unnoticed until someone curious and creative comes along to finally appreciate and acknowledge their existence through the click of a button.
Nature photography, for example, allows us to observe and experience life in different forms. While most people are familiar with wildlife photography or images of birds and other large animals in action, there’s one type of photography that has provided a sense of wonder and surreal fascination to those who know where to look: insect macro photography.
What is Macro Photography?
In definition, macro photography allows us to capture extreme close-up shots of very small subjects, including living and non-living organisms. The resulting images are bigger than life-size and often introduce new perspectives and appreciation towards what most people consider “creepy crawlies.” Macro photography allows us to see the beauty of this hidden world and appreciate the colors, textures, and out-of-this-world details that they present to the human eye.
What Should Be in Your Camera Bag for Insect Macro Photography?
Insects and different types of bugs are the most common subjects in macro photography. For this article, we’ll help you get in the game of nature photography through insect macro photography. The most important thing that you should know is the list of camera equipment for photographing small insects.
What to pack for an insect macro photography shoot includes these camera gear and accessories:
Camera with Manual Mode
Needless to say, you’re gonna need a good camera with manual mode so you can easily make adjustments to your settings to fit the shoot’s requirement. Both the latest DSLR in the market and older models have manual modes so that you can customize the values of exposure, aperture, and shutter speed depending on the subject, source of light, and the location where you’re doing the shoot.
Experienced macro photographers can agree that the success of macro photography does not really depend on the type of camera that you are using. It mostly depends on the type of lens. This leads us to our next must-have items for macro photography.
A Good Macro Lens
Since you are photographing tiny insects and similarly smaller subjects, you’re gonna need macro magnification. This can be achieved using a macro lens. Aside from making sure that you’ll have the opportunity to get a close-up shot, you are assured that your camera gets a good focus on the subject.
Macro lenses are also specialized lenses that give you a more detailed and high-definition magnification of objects. Insects, specifically, have highly elaborate patterns and colors that make these subjects have some of the most stunning images out there.
Make sure, however, that the macro lens you buy is compatible with your camera. More importantly, you should know how to choose the right focal length for your shoot.
Beginner Macro Lenses
Basically, macro lenses around 60mm in length are often recommended for beginner photographers. Aside from being more affordable, they allow newbie shutterbugs to shoot their subjects from a six-inch working distance.
Advanced Macro Lenses
If you’re an advanced macro photographer who wants to venture into insect photography, then you’ll get the most out of the experience by choosing more advanced macro lenses. Experienced macro photographers often use longer lenses that range from 80mm to 105mm. This range can also give you a much farther working distance of one to two feet compared to the 60mm focal length.
If you’ve decided to go hardcore and become serious in your macro photography, you can go for a range of 180mm to 200mm. Through these lenses, you’ll get the working distance and more freedom to be highly creative in your shots.
Extension tubes are highly recommended items for beginner macro photographers. These are used in between your camera body and your regular lens. Yes, you don’t necessarily need a macro lens to take on macro photography. Through the use of extension tubes, you’ll be able to change the Minimum Focus Distance (MFD) of your camera and let you increase your lens’s reach and magnification.
The only consequence of using extension tubes is, since they do not have any special optics, the image quality is not that great compared to using actual macro lenses. Therefore, this equipment is only practical to those who don’t have a dedicated macro lens in their camera bag yet.
Another alternative to a dedicated macro lens is the reversing ring. This equipment is commonly used by newbie macro photographers. Also known as the reversing adapter, it lets you use your regular lens. How does it work?
Using a reversing ring, you can cleverly mount your regular lens in reverse. In other words, the front side of your lens will face your camera body, resulting in more magnified images.
Just like extension tubes, however, reversing rings have cons. Reversing adapters will only work if the necessary adjustments to your focus and aperture control are made. The optics are not also that perfect so expect a lower-definition image.
Some beginner macro photographers got introduced to this type of taking photos by using close-up filters. These special types of filters are best for newbies because of their ease of use and affordability. Also called diopters, close-up filters can be screwed in and attached to the front of any regular lens. These filters are designed to increase your lenses’ magnification by reducing their MFD.
Close-up filters in the market today vary in terms of magnification strengths, from as low as +2 to as high +10. Like other alternatives to macro lenses, close-up filters have the same disadvantage: the higher magnification, the lower-quality images. This is because the resulting magnification makes edges softer and less defined.
A Macro Tripod
When taking a macro photo of an insect as your subject, there are two important factors that you should pay attention to. These are sharpness and composition. This is where the importance of having a good tripod comes in. Aside from eliminating the risk of blurry images, a tripod allows you to set and plan your composition.
A tripod will also make sure that your camera is stable and is at ground level, especially if the position of your subject is down below. While some macro shutterbugs can go handheld with shooting their shot, this is not ideal. With a tripod, you can also use remote camera triggers to release your camera’s shutter for that perfect shot.
What’s the Best Type of Tripod for Insect Macro Photography?
Seasoned macro photographers recommend tripods with longer handles instead of tripods with ball heads. The difference is significant especially if you are using a beginner type of macro lens.
Tripod heads with long handles will allow you to easily adjust the position of your camera especially if you only have inches of working distances. The most ideal macro tripods are those that have variable angle legs. Others also recommended those tripods that can easily be adjusted in terms of angular position.
Another piece of equipment that ensures you are free to position your camera according to the macro subject is the seagull viewfinder. This special accessory lets you point your lens to the ground level and comfortably get your composition right. Using the right-angle view of this accessory, you can freely look down through your viewfinder with ease.
Lighting is important in insect macro photography. For this reason, you’re gonna need reliable flash lighting for your shoot. Aside from its high-speed burst of exposure that freezes the image in milliseconds, it gives you a sure way to avoid motion blur. When used together with a smaller aperture, you’re going to get images with a more defined depth of field.
Flash bursts often create heavy and harsh shadows. Using a diffuser or any material that softens these shadows will exponentially improve your image. Diffusing materials are useful and effective in scattering the light or bouncing light off, especially from powerful flash bursts produced by your flash unit.
In order to eliminate the problem with heavy shadows, some macro photographers make use of the most popular item for medical and scientific macro photography: the ring flash. What makes it ideal? A ring flash does not produce a shadow. It also exudes soft light that is often used for illumination.
Macro Rails or Macro Slider
Insect macro photography, just like any form of photography, requires magnification. The last and most important camera accessory that you need for this type of shoot is the macro focusing rail. Also called macro rails, macro sliders, and focusing rack, this equipment lets you control your camera’s position during high-magnification shoots.
Why is a Slider Important in Macro Photography?
Macro sliders are often used for studio photography sessions for macro subjects. This device lets photographers adjust the composition of their shot as well as focus on the subject by accurately moving and taking multiple images.
The movements happen in very small increments. They are accurately timed to make sure that the lens stays focused on the subject. The process produces images perfect for focus stacking.
Focus stacking is a photography processing technique that delivers images with greater depth of field, thanks to the use of multiple images shot at different focus distances.
What’s the Most Intuitive Macro Slider in The Market Today?
Just like the types of macro lenses, tripods, and other macro photography accessories there is a long list of macro sliders out there. However, seasoned macro photographers can agree that MIOPS Capsule Slider and Capsule360 provide the most ideal and user-friendly focus-stacking functions than any other brand.
You can control all functions from your smartphone.
The combination of MIOPS Capsule Slider and the Capsule360 has helped beginners and advanced macro photographers to produce refined focus-stacked photos of the most beautiful and mesmerizing insects in the wild or in their studio. Aside from providing an ultimate front-to-back sharpness for macro images, these devices can be controlled wirelessly through a dedicated MIOPS smartphone application.
How Do You Use the MIOPS Capsule Slider with Your Other Macro Photographer Gear?
When used as an automated focus stacking rail, the MIOPS Capsule Slider can be mounted on a regular tripod. You then mount your camera onto the slider. Through your smartphone, open the MIOPS application and easily connect and control the MIOPS slider.
How is MIOPS Capsule360 Different from Other Macro Sliders Out There?
The answer is simple and interesting: the ability for specific setting controls, customization, and freedom. Through the MIOPS smartphone app, the MIOPS slider is transformed into a more powerful device capable of so much more than a typical macro slider.
World’s most versatile and compact motion box ever created!
Through the dedicated camera application, users can easily choose the Focus Stacking Mode on the app’s user-friendly menu. They can then easily adjust the settings, including the movement direction of the slider, whether to go left or right.
Users have also the freedom to set the Frame Parameter and the Interval Parameter to determine the number of images and the amount of time that it takes to shoot between shots, respectively. The value of exposure can be adjusted through the Exposure Parameter option. Additionally, the Step Parameter will allow users to set the distance between each shot.
Taking That First Step to Insect Macro Photography
Hopefully, this article has helped you take your first step to insect macro photography. As mentioned earlier, this type of nature photography can be one of the most intimidating, but it has its rewards. Being able to capture the macro world of insects is worth all the patience and effort, especially if you’re still trying to figure out the type of photography that you want to focus on.
Whether you’re a beginner photographer or you are already at a more advanced level, you’ll still be surprised with what you can find through your lens. Remember that talent won’t be enough to help you discover what is hidden. By using the right materials, techniques, and technology, you will be able to go above and beyond and test your creativity. All you have to do now is to try.
Make sure to explore the world out there and continue exploring the wonders that nature has to offer. If you want to up your game in macro photography or any other photography type like high-speed photography, you can take your first step here.
Blog Credit: Charm Villalon
Charm is a writer and a visual artist. Her drive to share ideas and stories is evident in her background in communication arts and language studies. Years of professional experience in content creation have given her a broad proficiency with the process of engaging online communities. An appreciation for multiple languages and cultures drives her to seek out experiences and capture these moments through her writing, digital art, and photography.