Photography Tutorial: The Ultimate Guide to Macro Bug Photography

This tutorial will go through steps you need to take to get incredible macro shots of bugs. There are different settings to get each shot... but in this tutorial I go over what I prefer to do to ensure a more eye-appealing shot.

Let's get started!

End result:
The Ultimate Guide to Macro Bug Photography Final Image

avatar MnMCarta

Views: 27701
Score: 9.35 / 10
Author earned: $30
Practice tutorial


Step 1

For both scenarios, there are three tips that are the same .

1. Set your “AF Point Selection” to focus on the center.
a) In bug macros, you are basically bringing out a specific part of the subject you are trying to shoot. I highly recommend this setting. You can really ruin the shot if your focal point is NOT in focus.

In the first picture you can see that the focus is on the mouth where the eyes would be much more appealing

Step 2

The second picture the focus is on the eyes which has color and it’s eye-catching

Step 3

2. Always add a bit of contrast to post editing. It will sharpen those areas you are trying to bring out. Just don’t go overboard with it.
3. Leave your ISO to automatic. The settings I mention below are if the subject/s are in extreme shade or light. They help to keep your shutter to a reasonable setting for holding the camera and getting the shot with minimal movement.

Step 4

Next are two scenarios that I have typed up some short flash notes to create that perfect look.
Scenario 1: Subject is in the shadow
1. Flash needed
2. The higher f-stop will reduce the washing out of the subject you can see a lot when using a flash at close rangeHigh ISO (400-800) 1600 ONLY if subject is in really dark area and can’t be moved. This tends to cause high noise but below is a program recommended to fix it. You want to stay away from noise as much as possible due to reducing it can take away from the detail you are trying to bring out.
3. F-stop between 9-11
a) The higher f-stop is due to some lighter subjects washing out easier than others
4. Shutter speed (1/80-1/200)
a) Any slower can result in a blurry subject due to not being able to keep your camera steady if no tripod is in use. You might not see it at first glance but when enlarged it becomes obvious.

Subject in medium shade:
f/9.0(for less DOF), 100mm fixed macro lens, ISO 400, Shutter 1/160, flash fired

Step 5

Subject in light shade:
f/5.6 (for DOF), 100mm fixed macro lens, ISO 400, Shutter 1/160

Step 6

A Noise reducing program will be very helpful in increasing the attraction and clarity of the shot when you use a high ISO. is where I got the FREE program I use and I really enjoy it. Very user friendly and again… it’s FREE. You can purchase the ability to clean up multiple shots at one time for a very inexpensive amount as well.

Step 7

Scenario 2: Subject in BRIGHT light
1. No need for a flash
2. Lower f-Stop for a nice DOF and specific area of focus (f4.5-f5.6)
a) Low ISO 100-200
b) High shutter (400-800)
3. Higher f-Stop for a larger area of focus and less DOF (f6.3-f9.0)
a) High ISO 400-800 (May require higher if in VERY bright light)
b) Slower shutter (100-250)

Subject in bright sun light: Focused on the eye. A bit of raise in f-stop allowed for more area in focus and darkened subject a bit. I also stepped back a bit to increase the area in focus and planned for a crop in post-editing.
f/6.3,ISO 400,Shutter 1/200

Step 8

Medium sun light: Focused on the eyes. Raised shutter to darken image.
f/4.5,ISO 400,Shutter 1/640

Step 9

I’ve noticed that a lot of dark bugs/subjects in direct sun still turn out dark so it’s a good idea to use a flash to get those details. Just follow the same rules as the Bright Light steps but an even higher f-Stop and/or faster shutter

Step 10

There are a lot of different scenarios that can affect your shot. Here is a quick rundown of the tips I have.
1. Leave your ISO on automatic unless your subject is in dramatic places. (Too much light or too dark). Then adjust accordingly to the above steps. The auto is pretty accurate and gives you the ability to just focus on f-Stop and Shutter speed to get the right lighting and DOF.
2. Raise your f-Stops when using flash to reduce/eliminate washing out the subject from being so close when taking the shot
3. ALWAYS watch your focus area. Ensure you have the main area of concentration IN FOCUS
4. Set your AF point selection to CENTER
5. Don’t go below 1/80 unless utilizing a tri-pod and then you might want to get a wireless remote to eliminate shaking or use the 2second self-timer.
6. Playing with one setting may require you to change another. Example would be if you take a shot with an f-Stop of 9.0 then decide you want more DOF you take it to 4.5. Your subject will be very dark so you will need to lower your shutter and/or ISO.

Play around with the settings and find a subject that will sit and pose for you. I love dragonflies and I can tell you they are just as curious about us as we are of them. Different color ones have different personalities and in my experience the Blue Dashers are the nicest. Move up VERY slowly to them without crunching the ground and I guarantee they will stay for you

Step 11

For my final result I wanted to showcase a few of my favorite macros. Hope you enjoy! :)

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avatar UncleJimmy

Very well made and great example photos...a well finished tutorial IMHO

(5 years and 1719 days ago)
avatar madamemonty

A very nice tutorial and beautiful shots too

(5 years and 1719 days ago)
avatar gotmeamuse

Yes, well done indeed!

(5 years and 1719 days ago)
avatar Lamantine
Lamantine says:

Fabulous tutorial my friend, great shots and very well explained steps, good luck on approval !!

(5 years and 1719 days ago)
avatar captgeo
captgeo says:

Looks great. Well done!!!!

(5 years and 1719 days ago)
avatar jawshoewhah
jawshoewhah [banned] says:

Works for me! Nice job!

(5 years and 1719 days ago)
avatar EmiK
EmiK says:

Very cool, I've learned a few things= )

(5 years and 1719 days ago)
avatar friiskiwi
friiskiwi says:

Nice work

(5 years and 1719 days ago)
avatar jcfreak6363


(5 years and 1719 days ago)
avatar adeincyprus

superbly written and explained, even 'idiot proof', well done.

(5 years and 1719 days ago)
no avatar
marina08 says:

Great guide on that bugs! Really helpful!

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar layerstack

Great tut! Thanks for the web address, cant wait to try this out

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar arca
arca says:

Very well done tutorial. One that I will reread and even play with in real life. I found it easy to follow, with good examples and enough variety that it will be useful! Thank you!

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar cocor
cocor says:

Great shots and very professional explanations! Thanks!

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar jerostone
jerostone says:

Most enlightening, all the more now that I bought myself some new filters! Not quite sure what I'm going to do with them, but, now that I have a few hints, I might as well give it a try.

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar MnMCarta
MnMCarta says:

Thank you everyone for taking the time to go over this and vote! Your feedback has been really encouraging! A really specialy thanks to Captgeo for helpin me with my grammer and spelling! You have no idea how much that meant to me

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar Glam0urGirl2007

GREAT JOB! great vote from me!

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar WYSIWYG

Well done!!

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar amandamichelle

great detailed tutorial!!!

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar locxoul
locxoul says:

love it...

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar MnMCarta
MnMCarta says:

Thank you alll sooo very much xoxo

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar barryn37
barryn37 says:

Great Job!

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar jeaniblog
jeaniblog says:

Well done, great work!

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar jbillitteri

Your the BAM! I'm saving this for future reference.

(5 years and 1718 days ago)
avatar wind
wind says:

Good! My compliments!

(5 years and 1717 days ago)
avatar MnMCarta
MnMCarta says:

Thank you!!! Hope it really helps everyone!

(5 years and 1717 days ago)
avatar erikuri
erikuri says:

Fantastic, it really helps people like me, that don't understand much of photography, only for hobby!

(5 years and 1717 days ago)
avatar rbsgrl
rbsgrl says:

Great job Amanda! I had no idea you were capable of such professionalism! Really, good job. You make me proud!

(5 years and 1716 days ago)
avatar erathion
erathion says:

Fantastic explanation author...With your tips even with average camera nice result can be achieved...thanks

(5 years and 1715 days ago)
avatar Momof4boyoboys

Well Amanda...I am very impressed with this tutorial!!!! I cannot wait for the bugs to start coming out here where I live so I can try this for myself. Great Job and very professional. "Way to Go Girl"

(5 years and 1713 days ago)
avatar Mikaelbg
Mikaelbg says:

Great job Amanda =)

(5 years and 1704 days ago)
no avatar
DigitAL says:

That is a great tutorial...very concise! well done Amanda. 8)

(5 years and 1701 days ago)
avatar captgeo
captgeo says:

Hey!!!!! You made it. Congrats!!!!!!! 9.41/10 too!!!! Great Job

(5 years and 1698 days ago)
avatar MnMCarta
MnMCarta says:

Thank you everyone for all your support! It means a lot to me really! And thank you PXL for asking me to do it and for the pay. That was really unexpected and greatly appreciated!

(5 years and 1698 days ago)
avatar drskn08
drskn08 says:

Amazing dear... and the software link you provided that is also kool... thanx for sharing !

(5 years and 1472 days ago)
avatar EmeraldStormcloud

I've been wondering how to do macro bug photography...even tried taking photos in my garden of bugs but haven't been successful in creating photos as shown in your tutorial. This tutorial is so helpful...the best I've seen for macro photography. Thanks so much for doing this.

(5 years and 1139 days ago)

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