Photograph Tiny Things That Fly - dummies

By Thomas Clark

An even greater macro photography challenge than small creatures and insects that move on the ground is working with those that fly. This type of macro and close-up photography requires the most patience, and can also be the most rewarding when your desired results are achieved.

Capturing a sharp image of a tiny flying insect can be difficult, whether you capture the shot while the insect is in flight or in a moment of rest. The more quickly and spontaneously the creature moves, the harder it is to position your focal point before taking the shot.

When photographing butterflies, bees, dragonflies, or other things of the sort, try to position yourself in an area where they’ll come to you rather than you having to chase them around. Pay attention to the types of flowers they’re flocking to and make yourself comfortable in a spot surrounded by those flowers. This way, you seem like a natural part of that area when the bugs arrive on the scene.

Try first to get shots of the subjects as they land on a flower taking a moment to inspect it. That moment may be the only chance you have to catch them while they’re still. After your shot is composed and your subject’s in focus, take the shot before your subject takes off in flight again.

There are basically two approaches to capturing an image of the creature in flight. Doing so provides rewarding results, but you need even more patience than usual.

One option is to set up a focal point that’s near a flower. Set your camera on a tripod and select a very fast shutter speed. Then wait for the subject to fly into your range en route to the flower, and snap your shot right as it passes through the area where your point of focus is positioned.

This requires practice, luck, and timing. You might spend a whole day attempting this technique without any perfectly sharp images to show for it. Remember that using a small aperture setting gives you a greater depth of field to work with, increasing the range of what appears in focus.

The other option is to handhold the camera (using a fast shutter speed and your lenses’ image stabilization mode, if available) and to track the flying creatures. Use the continuous auto-focus mode (which should help reduce the time it takes to lock focus on your subject) and take the shots very quickly.

If your camera and lens are fast enough to catch the moving subjects, then you’ll be able to get some sharp images. Just remember that this method doesn’t provide much (if any) time to consider your composition.