There are four things in photography that are directly
related and are always obstacles. Being able to balance the
Depth of Field (how much appears to be in focus), Shutter Speed, ISO
and Camera Shake . I have put up a page
on the first two as they deal directly with taking bug
photos. Camera Shake will be covered with Shutter Speed as
you are hand holding it. The other obstacle with live bugs is that you
trying to photograph a fast moving subject. Keep in
mind when photographing bugs sharpness matters. Also if it
is not a super sharp image it is most likely the operator
not the equipment. Throughout this site there are
photos that have been taken with different lens options,
many of these you can click on and zoom in on.
To find out more on ISO you need to go elsewhere as
there are numerous pages that have examples of specific
cameras and yours maybe listed. Once you do you will realize
that you just cannot just use a higher ISO to allow for a faster
shutter speed. What will happen is you will introduce image
noise into the image and it will make the photo look very
advice is to do a couple of tests with your own camera to
see when noise comes into play. Ideally you want to use the
lowest ISO setting to remove as much of it as possible. This
naturally applies when not using flash, when using flash
there is really no need not to shoot at ISO 100. Rarely do I
shoot a bug at anything other than ISO 100.
have limits as to how much you can increase depth of field
by using a smaller aperture as the trade off will be in
image quality. It will suffer if you do. You may have
read about lens diffraction, I had, but I never experienced
it. In a nutshell lens diffraction is when your image
becomes less sharp because you are using a higher f/stop
(smaller lens opening) to get more depth of field.
What was happening to me was I was getting plenty of light
(I was using flash), I had no camera movement but my
pictures were not as sharp because I was using an f stop
that was to high. This is something that you really
have to test with the lens configuration you are going to be
using. I was on one site where it said just use f32 and a
flash. Well, I notice it at f/14 and I personally find it
unacceptable at f/16. There is an excellent video on
lens diffraction on the F Stoppers Website
here. If you don't want to bother with all that
for the most part you will notice it after f/8 and it is
very acceptable at f/11.
journey I purchased an eBook on taking bug shots and for the
most part all it said was to use ISO 1600 and a macro lens.
Sounds good until you do it, with ISO 1600 you end up with
to much noise in the photo with a Canon 40D; however, you
can sort of pull it off with a Canon 5D Mark II. I am
sure the publication that I purchased was written by a
competent professional photographer whose boss told him to
write a book on macro bug shots, it was obvious that he had
not spent much time in the field doing it.
When shooting live bugs you really only have one big obstacle that you
don't have in other macro photography. The obstacle is there
is no time to setup and use a tripod so you are forced to
find a way to work without guaranteed camera stability. Also
the light needed for
the shot is not always there to allow for adequate depth of
field with a decent shutter speed. The fact is you are going to
need flash to get consistency, do you have to have it? No,
but for consistency, yes.
Plus, once magnified you will
find that the little critter you want to shoot moves very
quickly so you need to move quickly as well or wait until he
comes into focus.
To learn to keep the bug in focus, one little
exercise you can do is find an Ant Hill and watch the ants
move through your macro lens. Try to keep them in focus by
following them. It is just practice really, with a little of
it you will become very good at moving the camera a fraction
of an inch to maintain focus. What you will also find is
that with patience on many occasions if you just wait the
bug will move into the position you want.
In the end, what you
will end up doing is learn to compose to take advantage of the
small amount of depth
of field you have available which is called the "Magic Angle" and use flash to provide some if
not all of the light. You will also learn learn to do it
quickly. On the page with
3 Days to
Better Bug Photography there is more about the Magic
What you want to do is focus a little
behind what you want to have in focus and you want to shoot
at an angle to allow as much of the bug as possible to be in
focus. As shown in the illustration above the shot taken on
the right will have much more of the image in focus.
One thing to keep in mind is that
at the same magnification it does not matter what lens you
have, depth of field will be the same. Naturally you would
have to move closer or farther away from the subject to get
the same magnification with different lenses.
Cambridge in Color explains this very well. So it is not
just get a different lens to correct the issue.
So, now you know the obstacles that need to
be overcome. It is the balance of Shutter Speed, ISO,
Depth of Field and Camera Shake.
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