3 Tips on How to Take Close Up Pictures of Small Animals

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Here are 3 tips on how to take close up pictures of small animals like insects. Apply these simple camera tips and see the difference right away in your pictures.

Taking close up pictures of small animals require knowledge of your camera's aperture and speed settings. You also need to decide which feature of the subject you want to highlight to come up with your intended effect.

Since today's cameras are mostly digital, choosing cameras with manual settings is desirable to allow you to choose your camera's aperture and speed settings.

Film Cameras and Digital Cameras

I have been using a Pentax film single lens reflex (SLR) camera for many years. This allowed me to familiarize and experiment with different aperture and speed settings and see the outcomes of those settings. This knowledge came in handy upon the advent of digital cameras.

Of course, the trend nowadays is to use digital cameras as you can enjoy your pictures without having to spend a lot on developing and printing the pictures which will cost a fortune. Seeing those pictures in your laptop or desktop within a few minutes can help you decide which combinations of aperture and shutter speed setting are best for your intended purpose.

Panasonic Lumix LX5

Modern digital single lens reflex cameras or DSLRs are relatively expensive for a hobbyist like me. Investing in such cameras gives me second thoughts and I explored the web for relatively less expensive ones. I came across and liked the Panasonic Lumix LX5 after comparing camera models and their corresponding prices. The features and price lies in between a professional DSLR and a compact camera. I marked that camera in my head.

I had the opportunity to buy the advanced compact camera when I briefly visited Japan to attend a conference last week. I went to Yodobashi camera with a colleague and a friend and bought myself a Panasonic Lumix LX5. The camera has very good reviews and excellent sample pictures so I decided to give it a shot, investing 41,300 yen or roughly 505 US dollars for the unit. Panasonic Lumix LX5 is an advanced compact camera with manual settings. And it has a good quality Leica lens.

I explored the camera's features despite the fact that I bought a Japanese version with Japanese menus. I didn't realize that until I'm home. But this did not really disturb me as I can read a little katakana and hiragana with some help from a Japanese-English reference. Besides, the icons serve as good guides about the features. Also, I learned later that Panasonic only produce Japanese language cameras in Japan for some reasons.

As I become more familiar with the basic operations of the Lumix LX5, I yearned for more information about its manual operation. I looked for an operation manual in the web and came across White Knight Press' Photographer's Guide to the Panasonic Lumix LX5. The PDF version of the guide costs 9.95 US dollars. Thinking for a while, I decided to buy it to avail of the advanced features of the camera. The book was written by Alexander White, a Lumix LX5 enthusiast. Such a great help.

How to Take Close Up Pictures of Small Animals

Back to taking close up pictures, the following tips should be considered in taking close up pictures of small subjects:

1. Focus your camera on the eyes of your subject. Keeping the eye in clear focus provides a dramatic effect to the whole picture. See the example of a fish picture below which I published in Picable.

Fish Eye

Image Source

Focusing on the eye brings the viewer’s attention to the eyes, while the other parts of the fish are softened contributing to the overall appeal of the eye as the center of attention. Well, I didn't dive to take this shot. This close up shot was taken through a glass aquarium.

2. Under good lighting conditions, use the narrowest aperture setting (large number setting such as f22 if that is available in your DSLR; the maximum available in Panasonic Lumix LX5 is only f8) possible in your camera if you take close up pictures of small subjects. That is, if you want details to appear in your small subject. The aperture settings define the depth of field or how much of a picture is sharp in the front and back of where you focus on the subject. See how a small insect looks when using a shallow depth of field below.

Another Bug

Image Source

Notice that only the dorsal portion of the insect is clearly visible. Its legs seem to disappear on the leaf it landed on. Contrast that with the picture of another insect below:

Green Fly

Image Source

The above picture shows greater detail including the leaf background. Further, this close up shot was taken near a wall so only one side of the subject is illuminated such that it casts a shadow. To get rid of the shadow and come up with a close up shot just like the insect before this picture, you can use a reflector (anything that reflects light) or cover the subject with something that will prevent intense light from falling on only one side of the subject.

3. Never use a shutter speed setting that is lower than 1/60. Experience dictates that using a shutter speed of less than 1/60 for close up pictures will result to blurred pictures, i.e., if you focus on your subject by hand. If you are using a tripod, then it would be alright. However, opportunities for close up pictures can take you by surprise and your tripod is cumbersome to use if you are finding good angles to get the best shot.

Try these three tips and you will see a big difference in your pictures. And of course, you need to invest in a good quality camera such as Panasonic Lumix LX5. It appears that this camera is way ahead of its class and takes highly satisfactory pictures.

©Patrick A. Regoniel 4 February 2011 How To Take Close Up Pictures of Small Animals


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