Too many...insects, and more generally about Macro photography

© Linnea
© Npage
Pursuing the objects in the " macro world" is among the first attempts to enter the amateur photography craft. As soon as people discover the power of magnification the macro-modes the point-and-shoot cameras provide them, they usually are so appalled by the new possibilities and viewpoint of the environment around us, that they more often than not tend to forget all good guidelines of successful photography that they would otherwise abide to. "Newbies" often fall for the sheer ability to capture detail not visible so well to the naked eye. They forget about composition, usable depth of field, adequate lighting and so forth. All those aspects are as important as in other areas of photography, and even more so in macro. Good composition gives the image a sense of context. Usable depth of field is the main problem, since by getting closer to the subject automatically reduces the area that is in focus, even with seriously stopped down apertures. Even the smallest possible aperture might not give the desired depth of field. If this is the case, a relatively new and effective technique has been developed - called Focus Stacking (read more about it in this blog by Loveliestdreams).

Although focus stacking gives virtually endless depth of field, one might think, it is however only usable with very stable subjects and conditions. Attempting to get a sharp picture of a bee collecting pollen outdoors, via focus stacking, would be mercilessly futile attempt, since either the blossom moves in the breeze or the bee just leaves, not willing to stick around until you refocus and shoot, refocus and shoot... Hence true macro photographers use dead specimens of insects attached to a needle, controlled lighting and a tripod. More pro tips for various camera types on the subject can be found here - or here.

Inadequate lighting is another well-seen problem in the macro images, since the apertures are really small and bugs tend to go on with their lives, not staring at the camera forever. Perfect natural conditions for shooting macro are before AND after noon, when the sun is at an angle, not right from above - drawing shadows beautifully and casting full, warm light on the subject. Oh, did I mention, that tripod is a must!

Ok, enough of the theory, everyone interested can find out more on the web or in specialized literature. On to the context of Dreamstime.

© F2
Insects in general, are very popular subjects (no of images in our database with that keyword in the brackets) - either beetles (2,390), butterflies (16,153), flies (4,544), wasps (709), dragonflies (992), caterpillars (1,911), or ants (839). They are small, hard to spot in the wild, and exciting to photograph. But unless they are well composed, sharp and with sufficient DOF + in some purposeful context, they are really no use as a stock image. There are over 20,000 matches for insects, and if you sort the results by downloads, you'll notice, that only 480 or so have over 10 downloads! This means that although it is fun to photograph them, the subject is apparently not too hot among designers. As with any other type of subject, being original is they key. Take the time to examine what's already there and is it any good (beside sheer downloads take also into account how long the file has been online). Before heading into the woods, educate yourself with the tips and techniques I linked above and supply yourself with macro lenses, add-on magnifiers, spacers, a sturdy tripod and an ordinary, albeit powerful, flashlight (torch). A little comfy silver/gold reflector doesn't hurt either. Since you'll likely be gone for the whole day, bring a bottle of water and some snacks (but don't leave trash in the forest).

What we have TOO MANY, are "simple" (a.k.a.: boring) shots of butterflies resting on petals, tiny (compared to the frame area) ants swarming the ground, dragonflies on busy backgrounds (hard to isolate), and out of focus bees hovering over blossoms.

As you know from my previous post, learning the full and correct species name (complimentary with its Latin counterpart, if available) is the bare minimum to hope get the image accepted. So do your research. But keep in mind that Dreamstime is not an online encyclopedia for insects and so forth, so it is not paramount to get each and every kind of those tiny buggers online here (over a MILLION species worldwide, read the abstract here). Since it is still a stock agency, the image must also be stock oriented. Try to be creative! I know how abused this expression sounds, but it is still true. Don't forget the fun-factor, if possible.

At the end of this article, I have selected a few outstanding shots that should help you get going.

PS. If shooting objects up close, make sure they are painstakingly CLEANED of dust and all sorts of small debris. Use a magnifying glass if necessary and fine cloth or a firm brush. Compressed air is also useful for hard to reach grooves. There's no bigger a turn-off that to see a beautiful closeup, but with all kinds of "stuff" all over the place :)

© Tihis

© Mjp
© Linnea

Photo credits: Serban Enache, Amihays, David Lloyd, Britishbeef, Winthrop Brookhouse, Kutt Niinepuu, Digimist523, Anthony Hathaway, Koh Sze Kiat, Heintje Joseph Lee, Irochka, Jack Schiffer, Laurie Barr, Anette Linnea Rasmussen, Maceofoto, Mikko Pitkänen / Alias Studiot Oy, Eric Limon, Npage, Richard J Thompson, Marek Kosmal, Ryszard Laskowski, Saniphoto, Steffen Foerster, Alex Bramwell, Tihis, Colin Stitt, Jinyoung Lee, Paulus Rusyanto, Yuri_arcurs.

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June 09, 2008


wonderful macro world,learning

May 24, 2008


great article, lots of good advice for marco shooting and what amazing images too!! very talented artists on here!!

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