The trick with the cup, for photographing insects
“Look, there’s one” said our guide in the rainforest of South America. But we didn’t see anything. The snake was almost completely hidden by the leaves that covered the forest floor.
He grabbed the snake by the tail and put him in a small plastic aquarium that he always carried. Then he quickly put it up-side-down on the ground. We could see the snake clearly now, as it writhed frantically to find an escape. But after a while it settled down, and struck a nice pose. Everyone in our group had their cameras at the ready as the guide slowly lifted the aquarium and we could photograph the snake in it’s full glory. A few moments later the snake gathered the courage to slither away, without so much as a goodbye.
It was a successful trick that was repeated several times during the expedition. It didn’t work every time. Sometimes the snake was gone like an arrow the instant the box was lifted.
This experience from years ago gave me the idea to try it while photographing insects that are also continually trying to run away.
This is how it works: You catch a beetle or a spider or whatever, and put it in a small plastic cup. Put a piece of cardboard over the top to keep it in.
Invert the cup over the spot where you want to photograph your subject, and slowly pull out the cardboard. Wait patiently until your model stops moving, and then slowly lift up the cup, or better yet, have someone else lift the cup so you can be ready with the camera.
Now you need to work calmly, any sudden movements will scare you subject away. Everything needs to be done in slow motion. As soon as the cup has been lifted, you need to shoot quickly, because you never know how long you model will stay put.
On this page are several insects that were enticed to pose for me with this trick.
Below are some pictures to better illustrate the technique.