Photography of very small insects can be difficult because of the limits of traditional cameras and problems with depth of field, meaning some parts of the subject are out of focus while others are in focus when photographing small objects. This can be a cool effect in art, but in science we need to see all the parts of the insect, especially if you are trying to determine the species. This is because in order to identify a species correctly you need a clear picture of all the features on the insect body – head, thorax and abdomen.
In the past, microphotography was limited to a device called an Electron Microscope, which is big and bulky, expensive and produces images in black and white. Luckily, in the last 6 or 7 years there has been a revolution in microphotography, one such system is called Syncroscopy Automontage. This particular camera is attached to a microscope and takes a number of pictures (often 30 or more) across the body of the insect and then pieces the pictures together with software.
This creates a crystal clear image that is in focus from head to toe.Antweb, at the California Academy of Sciences, uses this technology and there are many others using it as well. The results open up a whole new world of the beauty of insects. Take a look at some amazing macro insect pictures here.