Female Gasteruptiid Wasp - Header

Guest blog post by Angela Robertson-Buchanan

‘Macro photography’ is a technical way of saying extreme close-up photography, usually of very small objects. It’s a great skill to have, and certainly one that can be learnt.

I thought I would put together a few insect macro photography tips – just in case you feel inspired to take your own after seeing my exhibition!

Choosing a subject and timing

Firstly, I would like to state that all of my insects have been photographed in their natural environment or where I have found them. I never prod, poke or reposition, their natural behaviour always dictates how I take the shot.

Most insects are less active in the morning when the temperature is lower so you will find they will be ‘happy’ to pose for you!

Even though most insects are around all year round, spring is probably the most intriguing with hatchings, mating and flying ‘dances’ to attract a mate. This can create an opportunity to make an interesting shot.

When approaching an insect, do so slowly, their eyes are ultra sensitive to changes in light, so try not to cast a shadow or they may think you’re a predator and run or fly off!

Getting your focus correct

Decide what you want in focus. If you want to get most of your subject in focus then shoot at F16 but choosing a wider aperture (low depth of field, less in focus) can make a lovely artistic image, I find this especially works well with butterflies.

I always aim to get the eyes in focus and use the manual focus mode, as auto takes too long to ‘search’ for the focal point.

Consider the background

Always think about your background, is it too distracting?

Female Gasteruptiid Wasp - is the background too distracting?

Female Gasteruptiid Wasp – is the background too distracting?

I always use a small white board to mask off unwanted backgrounds.

I spotted this female Gasteruptiid parasitic wasp sitting on the wall.  I climbed a ladder, as I like to get eye level with my subject; I believe it makes the viewer feel a part of their world. I wanted all of her in focus, but don’t want the window frame behind her so I used a white board and put it behind her to mask off the window frame.

Using a simple white card, I have reduced the distracting background, bringing greater focus on the subject

Using a simple white card, I have reduced the distracting background, bringing greater focus on the subject

As I was quite high up the ladder I hand held my camera. I do this most of the time as I find I follow my subjects around.

Consider flash

I used one macro flash on its lowest setting, mounted on my camera. This was to create a catchment in the eye and illuminate her metallic coloured body.

Flash is useful and sometimes essential to use if your subject is moving or flying, as it will ‘freeze the moment’. Never use your cameras built-in flash, it will be too powerful, over-flash your subject and create harsh shadows. Rely on natural light and fast shutter speed (if you have enough light) or invest in some macro flashes that can be mounted on/off the camera (such as that below).

My macro photography equipment - flashes, D800E

My macro photography equipment – flashes, D800E, R200 speed lights & 105m lens


My last piece of advice is try and spend as much time as possible with your subject, be artistic, experimental and have fun!

If you would like me to elaborate on anything or have any questions, please feel free to email me angela@photographicpassions.com . I also offer Macro photography fieldwork/tuition during the spring and summer months.

I hope you enjoy my exhibition!

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Angela Robertson-Buchanan will be presenting the Macro Wildlife photographic exhibition at the Head On Photo Festival in Centennial Park. You can learn more about Angela and her work at Photographic Passions.

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