Photos of insects on white backgrounds

I capture and kill thousands of beetles annually as field collaborator for a university museum and I usually shoot their corpses in several views on a white background next to a metric rule for ID purposes. After collecting a good series of a species (many of which are new to science) I stop collecting them. I probably do less harm to the insect population than a single small insectivorous bird.


I photograph moths frequently (too frequently if you ask my family) and I use leaves, rocks, old wood etc. for backgrounds if I have the time. I prefer the colour and texture of the natural surfaces to the moth sheet or the egg cartons in the moth trap.

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So do I… the horror I express is more about the false “associations”… for instance, when identifying I often look at the plant an insect is on, as it can give clues to potential IDs. In some cases it can eliminate a possibility, that sort of thing. We have a good picture of the host plants for a number of the agricultural pests, for instance, because there have been very thorough studies done, but then for other species we don’t even know where to find the larvae, period. It does highlight the need to not assume too much from a photo!


My bathtub, sinks, and floor tiles are all white. I find a disturbing number of live bugs in these places.


That’s why they put patterns on things… it’s to hide the bugs!


not sure if this is off-topic:


This is so true! I work in a national park and often times I will find moths out in the open and on rainy days will transport them one by one to a more forested area.

They are very tame creatures!

It reduces the number of students that in the past would have to collect bugs for biology class. Now they are “duress” users on iNat. I know I rather have vivid digital photos stored on the cloud than cases of brittle, faded insects occupying untold amounts of space in the home.

A setup like this (or similar) can produce great shots.

Slight modification can make it fairly portable. This setup is actually for shaving setups.

Interesting article. Not quite what I was expecting from the title.


I’ve been photographing my light-trapped moths, etc. on a millimeter grid. After trying to get the little buggers to sit still next to a scale I decided it would be less stressful for all involved.


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