Tips for Insect and Spider Photography

Insect photography can be somewhat difficult due to their small size, movement, and potential for blending in with the background. These tips should help you improve your photography of insects and spiders.

If you have a focus-free or fixed-focus camera (most film and digital cameras in the low-to-mid price range), it can be difficult to photograph some insects because you have to be at least three feet away to avoid making the photo out-of-focus. Some spiders and insects, such as dragonflies, may be large enough to photograph from three feet away. Very small insect photography may not be possible with a focus-free camera. However, by experimenting with a magnifying glass held in front of the lens, you may be able to take good photos of very small objects. This should probably only be tried on digital cameras, as it would be too costly (in film and developing) to experiment with different distances between the magnifying glass and the lens on a film camera. If you try this, keep in mind that the viewfinder will probably be inaccurate at this distance.

On the other hand, if your camera has focusing controls, you should be able to adjust the focus for taking a close-up photo of an insect or spider. The ability to do this partially depends on your camera’s lens type, as some lenses are more suited to close-up photography than others. A type of flash called a “ring flash” may be useful for close-up photography, as it fits around the lens instead of mounting on top of the camera – where a flash may miss the photograph subject by being too high. Be sure to set the aperture (f-stop) appropriately if you cast a shadow over the photo subject.

Insect photography can also be made more difficult by complex backgrounds which may distract from the insect or spider the photo is centered on. Especially if you have a focus-free camera, try to point it at the insect from an angle which produces the most plain and undistracting background.

If you are photographing an insect which is crawling or flying, adjusting the shutter speed (if your camera has this feature) will change the photo’s appearance. A lower shutter speed will emphasize the insect’s movement, but may give the photo a blurred appearance, especially if you accidentally shake the camera while pressing the shutter button. A higher shutter speed is less likely to produce a blurred photo and may make the insect look as if it isn’t moving. Two cameras which have shutter speed settings are the Konica FS-1 and Weston WX-7.

Remember that you will have the best chance of photographing an insect or spider before it moves if you have the film already advanced and the lens cover removed. A motorized camera or one with a lever-advance (many SLR cameras have this, along with some less expensive semi-SLR cameras like the Meikai EL and Cortland CX-7) allows faster advance of the film than a regular thumbwheel-advance camera.

Some photos of insects and spiders are mildly popular on stock photography service websites. However, there are a huge number of photos (hundreds or thousands) available for some types of insects, especially those that are more common.

Keeping these tips in mind should help you create more successful and higher-quality insect photography, as well as better photos of other small objects.

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