Close-Up Photographs of Ants - dummies

By Thomas Clark

Ants are easy to find but not as easy to photograph as you might think. They’re almost always on the move, making it difficult to compose the frame of your choice or to position your point to focus exactly where you want it.

Some tricks for photographing ants include:

  • Taking many images. When a subject is moving in macro and close-up situations, it’s difficult to lock down your focus exactly where you want it. Be swift in achieving focus and snapping the shot, giving little time for error in between. This photograph was captured with precise, sharp focus on the ant’s eyes, but there were at least 15 outtakes in which this was not the case.

  • Finding the entrance to their nest and staking it out. You can tell something about an ant’s life through your image and take advantage of a rare moment in which an ant actually stays still. Some ants will pause for an instant after exiting their nest. Maybe they’re affected by the brightness of the outside world and need a second to adjust. This is a great time to get your shot.

  • Enticing them with a tiny drop of honey. Nobody (especially not an ant) turns down a free meal. A drop of honey or something similar will buy you some time to capture a sharp image of an ant that is relatively still. You can also seek out scenarios in which ants are feeding on natural sources of food, such as plant nectar.

  • Going with the flow. This technique helps to tell the story of how ants work and move about. Some ants march in lines, following each other’s scent trails, collecting food and bringing it back to the nest. This provides a continuous shooting opportunity that’s interesting and informative.

    You can also capture the chaos of some ants as they are treading over each other in a frantic group, trying get at some sort of food supply.


100mm, 1/160, f/4, 500