Macro Tip #2: How to stop insects from moving


Common housefly with pins inserted…

One of the most common questions I get in workshops is, “Was it alive when you photographed it?”, and when I insist that it was, the next question is invariably “So, how do you stop them from moving?”

Acupuncture chart from Hua Shou (fl. 1340s, Ming Dynasty).

Acupuncture chart from Hua Shou (fl. 1340s, Ming Dynasty).

While many photographers do use dead specimens, or resort to freezing, glue and even anesthetization, this photographer has a more natural method, that is less harmful to the subject. When I need to slow down an insect I use the same age-old mystical acupuncture techniques that have been used in the Far East for centuries. The fly above is a good example. While most insects only take one acupuncture needle to get them to stop moving, this fly has a particularly complex meridians ( 十二经脉 pinyinshí-èr jīngmài, lit. “the Twelve Vessels”) , and the flow of Qi was very yin-yang陰陽pinyinyīnyáng), so it took me some time to place enough pins to put this fly into a state of De-qi ( 得气; pinyindé qì; “arrival of qi” or “numbness”) so I could take the photograph. Note that I always use black sterilized pins, because they look cool, and they are easier to Photoshop out of the image later. Rest assured, this fly was not harmed by the process, and it flew down to the ground directly after I removed all the pins.

Next blog post: how to stop insects from moving by using moxibustion.

(2 April…. in case you haven’t noticed, this was a poor attempt at an April Fool’s post–the fly is a Tachinid, which is naturally spiky, and I don’t do anything to stop insects from moving when doing in situ photography. Honest.)



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This entry was posted in Anthropomorphism, April Fools, Art, Bugs, Diptera, Insect, Inspiration, Just plain silly, macro, National Park, photography, Science, Season, Summer, Tachinidae, Technique and tagged , , , , , , , , .


  1. Gary Anweiler 1 April, 2014 at 9:44 AM #

    Pretty sure that is not a House Fly Adrian…..I think these really bristly ones are Tachnids….although I am no expert on Flies….

  2. Sean McCann 1 April, 2014 at 9:51 AM #

    If only I had a trained pompilid, I would use it to ferret out spiders for me!

  3. Gary Anweiler 1 April, 2014 at 9:51 AM #

    ….. and I really think that many fewer needles will get you the same result……if not total immobilization, at most glacial twitching and perhaps the odd flutter….

  4. Sean McCann 1 April, 2014 at 9:52 AM #

    Actually, I have photographed their prey before. They look natural, and can be posed:

  5. Gary Anweiler 1 April, 2014 at 9:53 AM #


    • Adrian 1 April, 2014 at 3:20 PM #

      I take it you were finally rendered speechless…

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