Photo of Clay Bolt

Macro Photography: Insects

with Clay Bolt
Macro Photography: Insects
Master macro photography and reveal the world of insects with striking imagery!

If you thought you had to travel to exotic locales to photograph captivating subjects, think again. Award-winning conservation photographer Clay Bolt shows you how to find, approach and photograph fascinating insects in your own backyard with spectacular results. Learn to work with available light and shallow depth of field to create crystal-clear images. Explore a variety of off-camera flash setups to enhance color and texture, increase sharpness and freeze motion. Use wide-angle macro lenses to create surreal images that showcase your subject and its habitat, and get Clay’s expert tips for successfully photographing insects in flight. Finally, learn to adjust images in the digital darkroom to illuminate the beauty of translucent wings and emphasize eye-catching textures. 

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Lesson plan


Lesson 1. Getting Started With Macro

  • Meet your instructor, natural history photographer Clay Bolt, and uncover the world of macro photography. Clay will preview what you will learn in this class: lighting techniques, using wide-angle lenses, shooting flying subjects and creating a field studio. Then, Clay gives you a peek into his gear bag as he reveals the equipment he’ll be using in this class.


Lesson 2. Using Available Light

  • Understand how light affects your subject throughout the day and explore how to compensate for low light by adjusting your aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Discover how adding a few accessories, including a reflector and cable release, can help you take bright, sharp photos. Learn how to find and approach skittish subjects and discover the importance of paralleling their movements to bring them into crystal-clear focus.


Lesson 3. Using Flash

  • Clay reveals how using one, two and even three off-camera flashes can really highlight your tiny subjects. Disperse shadows and add fill light to brighten diminutive details. Learn how to control your flash from your camera’s settings. Contrast the results of using on-camera and off-camera flashes and test exposures until you have just the right result.


Lesson 4. Wide-Angle Macro Photography

  • Exhibit your subjects in their habitats as you dive into shooting macro with a wide-angle lens. Clay demonstrates how using a diagonal fisheye lens allows you to get extremely close to your subjects, putting them in focus but still placing them in their environment. Create impactful images with Clay’s compositional tips for working with a wide-angle macro lens.


Lesson 5. Insects in Flight

  • Insects’ agility makes them challenging to photograph in flight. In this advanced lesson, discover which insects you can photograph using the equipment you already own. Clay offers tips for modifying your existing equipment and ways to overcome wind and cluttered backgrounds. Finally, witness how setting up a photo trap can allow you to capture the tiniest of insects in flight.


Lesson 6. Using a Field Studio

  • Build a portable outdoor studio as Clay shows you how to photograph your small subjects on a white background using off-camera flashes, à la the “Meet the Neighbours” global program that Clay co-founded. Discover several Photoshop tools you can use to really make your subjects pop. Clay demystifies working with living insects and offers tips for ethically handling them.

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Sierra Foothills, CA

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