Problems photographing flies. 3. You need light.

Okay, based on parts 1 and 2 of this series, you want to use high apertures (lens f-stop settings) to get lots in focus, but you need to use intermediate apertures to avoid diffraction blurriness. Either you have to focus stack (often impractical in the field) or accept a compromise f-stop like f11. So how does f11 work for you?

In all but the brightest light, f11 (or f8) will require long exposure times, giving ample opportunity for you or the fly to move, blurring the exposure. We’re back to either needing a motionless fly (unlikely) or, this time, more light.

Wait, can’t you just dial up the ISO (sensor sensitivity) on your new digital camera so you can use a faster shutter speed? Yes, but you increase the digital graininess (“noise”) in the photo, such that resolution at high magnifications is destroyed.

Here are a series of closeups of bristles on a tachinid fly showing this effect:

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1000

ISO 1600

ISO 6400

This series of shots tells me that, for my camera, ISO 200 is about the same as 100. For ISO 400-800 I get some degradation, but it is still pretty good. Above ISO 800, thing get pretty mushy. You need to check this in your camera, too.

The result is that changing ISO only helps me a little. If I want the highest quality images, I need more light. How to get this light is my next topic.

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