This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Insects. The photographing of insects, butterflies, etc., is a very interesting study. Especially in the spring and early summer is it possible to find the wayside and ponds teeming with living creatures - butterflies, snakes, frogs, toads, lizards, caterpillars and many other of similar species that are well worth photographing.
629. There are two ways of making picture records of these classes of subjects: First, to make the exposures of the animals just as they are found; second, to carry the subjects home. As the first method is beset with many disadvantages, the latter will be found the most successful.
630. Insects and butterflies should be handled with extreme care to prevent injury. Caterpillars and beetles may be carried in small boxes, while paper bags are more handy for frogs, toads, snakes, etc. For water insects a set of small bottles will be required. It is not advisable to place various species together as they will often eat one another. Each variety should be retained in a separate receptacle.
631. Individual ingenuity should be employed to work up the accessories forming the background and surroundings and let it be your aim to secure in the picture as natural an effect as possible.
632. An interesting series of negatives may be secured with a caterpillar, photographing it and then keeping it in a box large enough to contain a small branch upon which it may spin its cocoon. As a caterpillar changes its coat before spinning its cocoon, you should watch carefully and photograph it if the change is sufficiently great to warrant it. When the cocoon has been spun, make a photograph of it, then keep the box tightly closed until after the butterfly makes its exit from the cocoon, when it, too, may be photographed.
633. To secure records of the changes that occur in the appearance of caterpillars, it is necessary to care for them through their progressive stages of growth and photograph them at intervals. When they are not eating they remain quite still on the leaf or twig, which affords splendid opportunities to photograph them.
634. When fish and aquatic life are to be photographed, a small aquarium is necessary. Subjects like snakes and lizards should be arranged on the farther edge of a table with their heads pointing towards the center. When released they usually move in the direction they are headed and cross the table within the range of the lens. A slight buzzing noise will generally attract and stop the larger species, while a sharp, loud tapping has a similar effect on the smaller ones. Sometimes it will be necessary to put the hand close in front of the creature to arrest its motion when other plans have failed.
Exposure. The amount of exposure, of course, is that which is sufficient to give detail to all parts of your subject. The lens must be stopped to an opening just small enough to give sharp definition to all parts of the object. Do not, however, attempt to get the background sharp as this will, in the majority of cases, not only be objectionable, but undesirable. Care must also be taken with reference to the background. It should not be spotted as is many times the case when the light comes through between the leaves and branches. At all times, the plainer and simpler the background, the better. When making studies at home of the smaller animal life, the background should be constructed so as to give the appearance of the natural surroundings of the object, yet this, too, must be very plain and not detract from the subject. Always aim to give sufficient exposure, even if it is necessary to slightly over-expose, as it is far easier to secure satisfactory results if you have a good strong image on the plate than if it lacks detail in the shadow portions.