Problems photographing flies. 1. Of what is your camera capable?

A tachinid fly - looks good, right?

Flies are fantastic subjects for photography, but they present many challenges because they are

1. small,

2.active,

3. often metallic and bristly.

All of these are factors that cause problems that I’ll discuss in the next few postings.

[The reason I’m writing about this is that there is so little good macrophotography information about insects like flies. I assume interested readers know the basics of 35 mm digital photography. If this subject doesn’t grab you, go back and re-read the last post by Lisa Gonzalez, which was a real crowd-pleaser]

When you photograph small things at high magnification, your depth of field is frighteningly shallow. Take a shot at f 1.4 and you’ll get maybe one tarsomere and a wingtip in focus. The rest will be a blur. Therefore, you need  to close down to f 22 or f 32 to get everything in focus- correct? Unfortunately, when you do this, you start to distort the image through diffraction. It’s not really a problem when photographing big things (like landscapes), but flies are 1. small.

Above is a good-sized tachinid fly. I photographed it with my camera (Nikon D-7000) on a tripod, using a 125 mm macro lens set at f 22. At this magnification it looks pretty sharp, but look closer (below). You’ll softness from diffraction that no fly obsessed photographer (and I hope you are one) would tolerate. And since most flies are smaller than this tachinid, what we see in this magnified view is ALL we’ll get.

f 22 -blech!

At the next setting, f 16, sharpness is definitely better. Scroll down to see other settings.

f 16, a little better

f 11, better yet

f8 - sharp

f 5.6 - who knew?

The problem, of course, is that by f 5.6 the legs are all out of focus. You have to pick a compromise (f 11 works for me) or do something else, photostacking, which only works well with stationary objects (and remember, flies are 2. active). More compromises are ahead.

To get the best results, you first need to know what your camera can do. Everyone needs to test their camera and lenses this way to see what is possible. Then you can move on too what is practical.

Next- how do you get to use that f 11 setting?

2 comments to Problems photographing flies. 1. Of what is your camera capable?

  1. Bernardo says:

    greay post!

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