There is a common misconception that a macro lens is the best lens to take photos of dragonflies. Sure, you can use a macro lens for dragonfly photography, and when I first started taking dragonfly photos that is what I used.
Most of the time dragonflies are very active and dart around all over the place at high speed. Sure the dragonflies occasionally stop and hover, but these moments are short lived and if you blink you’re likely to miss it. You have to have to be real quick when trying to take photos of active dragonflies, and using a macro lens (i.e. a lens which requires you to be up close and personal to the subject) is not the best tool for the job. I did manage to get a few photos of dragonflies like this but my hit rate was very low and I got so frustrated I was almost ready to give up.
Dragonflies are less active first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon and this is the time of day when you’re most likely to see them sat on a reed head or bit of grass. Taking photos of dragonflies when they are like this is easier, but they are still timid and often fly off as you approach them with a macro lens. Once again, I managed to get a few shots but my hit rate still wasn’t as good as I wanted.
The best lens for photographing dragonflies is a super zoom lens period. Using a super zoom lens enables you to locate the dragonfly, point the lens at the dragonfly and get it in the frame and then zoom in nice and close for a frame filling shot, and all without moving from the spot. Being able to do this without moving towards the dragonfly is less likely to spook the dragonfly, which means it is less likely to fly away, which means you are more likely to get the shot.
Zoom lenses don’t record as much detail as macro lenses, but then does it really matter? Seeing individual leg hairs, the hexagon pattern on the eyes or seeing the dragonfly’s beard is pretty cool and amazing………. But only for five minutes. Once you’ve seen a macro or extreme close up photo of a dragonfly once there really is no need to see it again, and these type of shots have very limited uses.
A long reach zoom lens is by far the best lens for taking photos of dragonflies, and if you use one I guarantee you will see your hit rate increase no end.
THE LENS I USE FOR TAKING PHOTOS OF DRAGONFLIES
The lens I use for taking photos of dragonflies is the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens. Being an L series lens the Canon 100 – 400 is made from the best materials, making it tough and durable which is essential for outdoor shoots. I tend to give my camera lenses a bit of a hard time, yet my Canon 100 – 400 has managed to deal with everything I have thrown at it over the years. As well as being tough and durable the Canon 100 – 400 is also weather sealed. This is also another essential feature since it not only keeps the water and moisture out but also the dust, dirt and debris I come across when I am out in the field taking pictures of dragonflies.
The image quality of the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens is simply superb and I have no complaints at all. Read any review about this lens and you will struggle to find any negative comments about the image quality.
What I like about using the Canon 100 – 400 for taking pictures of dragonflies is the fact I can zoom in nice and tight and isolate specific parts of the dragonfly or I can pull back a bit and include the entire dragonfly plus a bit of background for context. The 100 – 400 won’t capture “macro” shots but in my experience the extreme close up and macro photos of dragonflies haven’t been good sellers and there seems to be no market for them. Photos taken that include the entire dragonfly though (i.e. the types of photos I can capture with my Canon 100 – 400L IS lens) sell pretty well and I have managed to generate a nice level of income with them.
The Canon 100 – 400 has a push/pull zoom which is an excellent system, and one I prefer over the conventional twist action. With the push/pull zoom I can zoom in or out to compose the shot, and then press the shutter button in a split second.
If you want to go out and take photos of dragonflies and shoot a Canon camera the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens is a lens you should take a look at. It is an excellent lens and since I bought mine it is my go to lens for dragonfly photography.
Buy the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens from Amazon.com (US citizens) or buy from Amazon.co.uk (UK citizens).
Since the Canon 100 – 400L IS lens MK2 has been released the MK1 has been discontinued, and as such the cost of used and second hand MK1 lenses have gone through the floor. If you want to save yourself a ton of money and get yourself a real bargain a used 100 – 400L IS lens is the way to go. If you’re looking to buy a second hand lens the go to site has to be eBay, and there is always a large choice of lenses available. To see the current Canon 100 – 400L IS lens offers and deals currently on use the search box below.
What are you waiting for? Go and see if you can grab yourself a bargain.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.