9 tips for macro insect photos

By Laura Hicks, Olympus Visionary

I never knew the joy and beauty of an insect until I started photographing them with a macro lens. These tiny creatures are so much more fascinating when you see them through the bigger-than-life lens of macro photography. Every small feature comes to life when the minute details of a bug’s body comes into focus. Check out these tips for getting great insect pictures.

1 • Start with the right gear

My favorite combination to use is my OM-D E-M1 Mark II paired with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens. The 60mm f/2.8 an amazing lens that renders an equivalent 1:1 shooting ratio that’s perfect for macro photography. I have also used the M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO telephoto lens with some astounding results. Both lenses give me a beautiful depth of field and offer the ability to get in close to my subject.

2 • Find a location with variety

Look for a location where a variety of insects tend to gather. That can be near a fragrant bush, a pond, or in your own back yard. I love walking out to my front yard to my huge hydrangea bush to capture a beautiful caterpillar climbing on a branch or a bee buzzing from one flower to the next. I like or going to a local park and photographing bees collecting pollen from a lilac bush. Sometimes I will sit in my backyard and watch the dragonfly and hover flies dance around the pond.

3 • Be patient

Insects can dart around a lot so you will need to be patient. However, after just a few minutes you will even be able to predict where they might land and get good at following their movements. This is where the magic happens. Once you can get in since with their habits, you can create some pretty amazing pictures.

OM-D E-M1 + M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO, 1/320 sec, f/6.3, ISO 400
PEN-F + M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro, 1/60 sec, f/5.0, ISO 400

4 • Focus on the eyes

I have a tendency to personify my bugs. It’s probably just a routine from being a portrait photographer for so long, but I find that eyes are the windows to a person’s soul. I use that same philosophy with insects.

5 • Setting for your preferences

Set your aperture and shutter speed to get YOUR desired results. Some people like their macro image to be taken in the focus stacking mode with an aperture of f/8 or higher to get the maximum amount of focus on their subject. Others prefer to have a softer feel by capturing a single image with a wider aperture like f/2.8 or f/4. No matter what your preference is, set your camera accordingly.

Shutter speeds are important if you are wanting to stop movement or purposefully show movement. A shutter speed of 1/1000 sec or higher can be used to stop motion. On the other hand, using a shutter sped of 1/60 sec can be used when wanting to show movement. Again, it’s a matter of preference. Don’t be afraid to try out multiple techniques.

Weatherproof STF-8 Twin Macro Flash in action

6 • Add a flash

Sometimes you will want to highlight a specific part of the insect. Or maybe you want to stop motion, but don’t have enough available light to do that. Using a flash can help you achieve a look that you couldn’t get without one. Try using the FL-900R off camera. It will give you amazing professional results. The Macro Flash Set STF-8 is also a super cool accessory that helps you get close to your subject while not having your lens get in the path of your flash. Because of its flexibility, it’s perfect for beginners and advanced photographers.

7 • Get as close as possible

Macro photography is all about making a small object appear larger than life in your photograph. A lot of the time you have to get really close to your subject to make that happen. Get as close as you safely can to the insect you are photographing. Most of them are not going to harm you. They are just going about their daily lives on their way to gather food, procreate, or explore the world.

OM-D E-M1 + M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro, 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO 1000
OM-D E-M1 + M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro, 1/200 sec, f/4.5, ISO 400

8 • Use the image to tell a story

I love to create an image that tells a story about the subject. Maybe it’s capturing a hard-working bee that spends its days collecting pollen. Maybe it’s photographing a caterpillar that resembles a firework bursting in the night sky. Maybe it’s a spider web that looks like a gorgeous chandelier.

9 • Share your work

Olympus users have created a beautiful user gallery full of their artwork on this website. Be sure to share your work with others. Enter the monthly contests. Join groups that will support you as you learn and excel. As photographers we thrive off of being inspired by the artistry of others, so put yourself out there to be inspired and inspire others!

OM-D E-M1 + M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8 Macro, 1/100 sec, f/4.5, ISO 400


    1. I usually hand-hold my camera, but it always depends on the situation! For very close shots like the ones in this article, you’ll find the process MUCH easier with a tripod, monopod, or at the very least conveniently-located items arranged to provide extra stability. The closer your subject is to the focal plane, the shallower your depth of field is going to be… which means that you’re either going to have to narrow your aperture to get more in focus (creating a darker exposure) or will have to work with a razor-thin area of focus (meaning any movement could be disastrous).

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