I love to photograph bugs, beetles and flowers really close up, but my lens won’t let me do it, and if I can get insects in focus they are always moving and blurry? Have you any macro lens tips?

There are two problems here. A “macro” lens or macro setting enables your camera to focus on things that are really close up – even a couple of centimeters! Strictly speaking, a macro lens is one that can make things look bigger than they actually are, but generally these days it’s just for making close up things look big. Dedicated macro lenses are quite rare and therefore expensive, and unnecessary for a lot of people.

The other problem is that insects move very quickly, and unless the aperture is really wide the picture will tend to be blurry.

We recommend the 50mm f1.8 lens – a great portrait lens, but one that can be used for focusing on things even as close as 12″. You can then crop in on the image if you like – these two are uncropped:

Cropped in a bit!

The 50mm f1.8 lens is an absolute delight and remarkably inexpensive. We don’t know anyone who has been disappointed with it.  (Careful if you have a nikon D40, D3000 or D5000 series camera – it will not autofocus and you need to manually focus or buy the 50mm f1.8 AF-S lens). It does not zoom, meaning that you need to get in close yourself, but it takes very clear shots. We have one we bought on ebay for £34, but the record for students is £22! The large aperture means the two bee shots here were at 1/4000th of a second, so the bee’s wings are not blurry.

So our macro lens tips are don’t start with a macro lens!  Save yourself the money until you’re sure you really need it.