Best jar to capture and photograph an insect?

For the clearest images I’ve used a 10mm Standard Glass Cuvette - 3.5ml, made out of optical glass. They cost about $17 for one. I push a foam earplug in to keep the bugs inside during photography. Here’s a bee being photographed in one:


I also do something similar with ziplocs. They are flexible so great for catching in difficult spaces, and quick to close as well (just fold over). I also sometimes use old medicine/pill bottles to catch, but that’s a bit trickier, IMO.

With a “fresh” ziploc, it may be good enough for picture taking depending on lighting. They won’t win any awards, but you can press the insect to mostly immobilize for picture taking, like a squeezebox for vertebrates. However, I reuse ziplocs as much as I can, and they get scratched/foggy pretty quickly. It’s also quite easy to transfer from a ziploc to another container for pictures without losing a specimen. Recycled baby food jars can be pretty good for pictures, but with some distortion.

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Personally, I use any type of container, large or small. Medicine bottles, Nalgene bottles. I take them home, stick them in the fridge for several hours, photograph them and then let them go. Now, I don’t wander too far from home, so anything I bring home is not hundreds of Km away from where I found it. Less than 5. If I was a longer way from home, I would want to change my methods. However, a cooler with ice packs (or ice) would probably work well. The smaller the better, though - they chill down faster in a small container than a large one.
I have found that I can often take decent photos of small things with a 55-250 lens. They are not stellar, but usually enough for an ID. You don’t need to get too close!
BTW, is a ‘pooter’ an aspirator? I used to use them back in the 1980’s, mainly for flea beetles. We made them from scratch, but at a Research Station we had all the stuff! There is not need to inhale much - just use a mouth suck. Works like a charm. The smaller the aperture, the better.

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i don’t really catch insects, but back in the day, i had a lot of success catching insects in acrylic magnifying boxes like this: i would occasionally go out into various gardens and use a dozen or so of these to capture different insects in the garden to show the insect diversity in those gardens. in just a few minutes, i could easily capture enough lady beetles, ants, honeybees, wasps, bumblebees, etc. to fill all the containers. i even caught a squash vine borer once.

one side has a magnifying lens, and the opposite side is just flat acrylic. so you could pick whichever side works best to observe your particular insect. the lids were usually fairly secure, but i could put a little clear tape around the edge temporarily to prevent kids from opening ones containing bees and such, if needed, and even though there were no air holes, i could always release all the insects unharmed after a couple of hours. they stack nicely, and they’re small enough so they don’t take up too much space, although they wouldn’t be big enough to capture big butterflies or big grasshoppers or that sort of thing.

i’ve swallowed an insect using a DIY pooter, or at least i’ve ended up with insects in my mouth. it sucks.


I’ve been very curious about Joel Sartore’s setup. He normally does zoo animal photography but during lockdown he did a lot of just going out with a bugnet and shooting whatever he could find. The shots are amazing and it seems difficult imagine how he got such good results without distortion or reflections shooting bugs in jars:

he started out simple: catch a bug, put it into a jar, set it against backdrop, and photograph it. After its moment in the spotlight, release the bug back into the wild.

I just experimented with a ‘lens blower’ bulb and it took about four or five squeezes to reasonably inflate a standard ziplock sandwich bag. These bulbs are small, light, easy — and half the time I would have one in with my photo stuff anyhow.

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This seems like a great idea. Thanks!

Ah, no, I use a net to catch the insect, then put the vial into the net to get the insect into it that way. It’s very efficient and the netting has minimal risk of escape if you can do it quick enough.


Here’s another idea – but I haven’t tried it, just to be clear.

What about plastic coin-cases? They might work well for smaller specimens.


Great idea!

This also look like a good idea. Thanks.

His results look similar to the “Meet Your Neighbours” style:
For that you use multiple flashes (2+) synchronized with your camera to reduce shadows as much as possible. For example put a flat piece of white acrylic on a stand, and have one flash shining upwards through the acrylic and 2 more flashes shining from different angles from above. Then you put an insect or whatever on the acrylic and get a photo with essentially no shadows, and any remaining shadows are easy to eliminate completely with post-processing. You do have to get lucky with the insect not flying away in the moment between putting it in the setup and picking up your camera.

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