Help with settings

Hi All,
I have a lot of bees in my garden and would like to capture a picture of one in a flower. I am a complete newbie to photography and every attempt has failed! I’d appreciate some help...thank you


  • edited June 2019
    Bees are pretty hard to get because they flit about so fast, and focusing can be nearly impossible, especially if you don't have the fastest focusing lens (you know the one that costs five times what your camera did!).

    A couple of hints:

    I'd go to either manual, shutter priority, or aperture priority mode, dependig on how you're used to working. Any of those modes will allow you to choose the shutter speed, but shutter priority is likely the easiest.

    First, keep the shutter speed fairly high. You'll need a shutter speed in the 1/500 range to keep moving insects truly still, though, you may be able to get by with less if they stand still. You'll almost never get the wings if they're buzzing. If it's a bright day, you can probably keep your ISO pretty low, but you may have to up the ISO and settle for a little noise. If you have issues with too shallow a depth of field, you may want to put the aperture up to F8 or so, and up the ISO as need be.

    If you have a telephoto lens, try putting it on its longest focal length and using that. It's not macro, but the distance can help. Generally you should use the longest focal length you have available, since a zoom will focus just as close at the long end as at the wide.

    For Auto focus, you need Continuous Servo, not single. Try 11 point Dynamic Area mode first, but if that does not do, you might try 3D mode. 3D mode can jump to the wrong subject sometimes, but does well with insects that flit about, especially if they are distinct in color from the flowers they're on. Dynamic Area works best on things that go in a predictable path, while 3D can work a little better on things that dart around.

    Don't get too close, because first of all your lens won't autofocus properly, and second of all, it's harder to track a moving subject if it occupies too much of the screen. Try to get as close as is practical, but don't be afraid to go a little wide and crop later. It's better to have the bee in the frame than to get a perfect flower with half a bee.

    If you have time, and your flowers are abundant, sometimes it's easier to focus on a flower and wait for a bee to arrive than it is to find a bee and follow it.

    Because depth of field can be very small, try to focus on the bee's head. If you get a sharp face and a blurry butt, it's OK, but the reverse is a throwaway.

    I'd set the camera to continuous shooting, and fire away. Be prepared to fail way more often than you succeed, and get used to erasing lots of dud shots.

    One of the greatest virtues of digital photography over analogue is this ability to fire away and not worry about wasted shots. One of my favorite photo occupations is chasing bugs, and I've been doing it for some time, but I always assume I'll erase many more shots than I keep.

    Speaking of bees, I have a Siberian Maple in front of the house, and when it blossoms it just fills up with bees. The whole tree hums. I shot it earlier between our constant rainstorms. This was with a D7100 and a 200-500 lens (the bee was pretty high up). The shutter speed was 1/800. in maple.jpg?dl=0
  • I just went out today and took some tries at bumblebees on the rhododendrons and lilacs.

    For these, I would definitely go with Dynamic Area AF, not 3D. 3D mode tends to focus on the flower instead of the bug. Dynamic may also, but is more likely to follow the bug. I actually got the best results with a manual focus lens on extensions, focusing by moving the camera.

    Bumblebees are interesting critters. On the rhododendrons, they flit from flower to flower, and move so fast it's just luck to catch one at all. I probably threw out 20 shots to one, and if I were more critical, I'd have thrown out more. On a Korea lilac, though, they were very systematic, feeding a bit more slowly and moving more or less from one flower to the next neighbor. It was much easier to bag a bug on the lilacs.

    Then, because this is Vermont and it's like this, it got overcast, and so dark it was hard to get a good shutter speed. Motion blur kills lots of shots then.
Sign In or Register to comment.