1. Can’t afford a macro lens? Use extension tubes
This is a great way to see if you like macro photography
Extension tubes are an affordable way to turn your normal lenses into macro lenses at a fraction of the cost. The good thing about them is there is no glass involved so you don’t need to buy the most expensive ones, although I have read some bad stories about the cheapest ones getting stuck on the camera. Middle of the road will work well for you. Just make sure you get the type with the electrical connection so you can still change the aperture via your camera and the ones made for your camera e.g. Canon or Nikon
How do I use them?
Basically, all they do is go in between your lens and camera body and make the distance between the sensor and lens element further away giving you a more magnified view – there will be a more technical reason but you don’t need to know it to use them.
Your minimum focusing distance will be massively reduced allowing you to fill the frame with smaller objects.
2. Use flash and a diffuser
You’ll often find yourself in less than ideal lighting conditions when photographing insects if you’re getting blurry photos from slow shutter speeds or grainy images from using a high ISO you may benefit from adding in some light. Using a flash is a great way to add more light in a controlled way.
In my experience, a large soft light source will improve your images greatly. Covering a large area using the light allows you to have a bit of freedom with your photos as it’s likely that the flash will fill in the light. Adding a diffuser will soften the light making the images look more natural. One thing to consider is the shape of the diffuser will appear in the images e.g. in the insect’s eyes
3. Practice on stationary objects
This may sound boring but it’s a good way to get used to how close you need to be to create certain types of looks. This helps you to plan your approach as you will know which extension tube to add to your set up and how close you need to be to focus.
Get good at finding the right focal distance and focusing on something that won’t fly away then build up until you can photograph faster subjects
If you can get into the right area first try then it will increase your chances of getting a better photograph before the insects fly away
4. Choose the right time of the day
Don’t quote me on this but I once read that “insects are cold-blooded” meaning that when it’s cold they move slower.
How does that help? Go out early morning before the sun has risen or go out later in the day when the sun has started to go down. I don’t know the science behind it, but I can say they are slower which makes it a lot easier to get close to the insects
5. Focus stack
Focus stacking is a technique used to combat the shallow depth of field that is produced when photographing small objects. It allows you to take a series of photographs at different focus points to then later stack into 1 photo that is sharp everywhere.
This is quite a tricky process. It can be done handheld with some focus but using a tripod and focus rails will give you more reliable results. Because your looking to get multiple photos of the same subject this is less likely to work on living subjects but it will work on other subjects