Tips for beetles, cockroaches and carapaced insects

Tips for beetles, cockroaches and carapaced insects

I find beetles and cockroaches can be quite difficult subjects to capture well. They are usually found scuttling on the ground and so 99% of shots are taken from above. The head and eyes are usually a good focal point for an image (note there are exceptions), shots taken from above don’t display these features to their most beneficial.

Here’s an example of a poor, yet typical cockroach shot. I took this several years ago in Borneo. It is too flat, no real points of interest, one can’t see the head and the photo is too dark. Utterly forgettable.

So, get low down and shoot upwards.

This cockroach was found on the forest floor. It blends in extremely well with the dead and dying leaves. However to shoot it from above would leave a rather flat composition. So I lay down on the leaves and waited until it adopted a position where it mounted a lookout leaf higher than the rest. I tilted my camera up and got this shot. To my eye, this shot is much better! Kurupukari crossing, Guyana.

Put the insect on a leaf, or twig and raise it up to get a shot from below. Use glass and shoot an underside portrait. Use mirrors. There are any number of things one can do to generate a more interesting shot.

Rather than shooting this Rhinoceros beetle amongst the grasses, I decided to get it to cling to a stick and raise it against the sky for a brighter more unusual backdrop. Kurupukari crossing, Guyana.

Beetles and cockroaches have interesting behaviours too don’t forget! One can very easily dismiss scuttling and unpleasant creatures and avoid looking for any kind of behaviour, however, some are very interesting or even beautiful!

Here a cockroach is splaying its wings in an attempt to lure a mate. Manu national park, Peru.

Cockroaches and most insects for that matter undergo moults in which they shed their exoskeleton in order to grow and adopt a new chitinous shell. This can be a great opportunity to catch some interesting and somewhat otherworldly photos.

The old exoskeleton has been split and emerging is the cockroach, now larger. Colours are usually more vibrant after a moult as well. Insects will require some time for the chitin to harden and so usually remain still for long periods during this dangerous and sensitive period in their lifecycles.

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