Chilling Insects for Macro

I know, I know, this will be quite the contentious subject but it’s come up a number of times over the years so let’s settle this once and for all.

If you’re not aware, it is a somewhat common practice to either freeze or chill insects in order to take macro photographs because insects tend to move a lot making it very hard to focus stack or photograph them at all.

Based on my research I have found that it is bad practice to freeze insects as they will die. This one seems obvious that we should be discouraging this practice on NPN. Killing insects should be reserved for scientific purposes, not purely for a nice photo.

Then there is chilling insects, this is where ethics get into a grey area. If chilling is done properly it only slows down the metabolism similar to a cold morning and does not harm the insect if proper care is taken. I think everyone’s ethical line will vary on this.

Currently, the NPN guidelines have no mention of this subject. So the question is where do we draw the line? Rather than making a personal stand on this, I want to hear from the members.

  • Add no freezing or chilling to the guidelines
  • Add no freezing to the guidelines
  • Leave the guidelines as is

0 voters

Whenever I do ‘bug’ photography it’s in the wild with no wrangling on my part. I have given thought to cooling, not freezing, my subjects, but I’ve never done it. With regard to rule-setting, I’m not sure that it would change much. Folks who are dishonest aren’t likely to be caught out (unless there are frost crystals or other signs visible), so I don’t know how it would change the current submissions. Shrug. Setting the guideline to discourage this practice is a good way to show the stance or attitude of NPN, but might not eliminate it with submissions.

An interesting topic for thoughtful discussion. Chilling due to natural environmental conditions is OK (dew covered dragonfly found on a cold morning, for example) is acceptable. Insects have behaviors that they use to avoid freezing and includes shivering, synthesizing anti-freeze proteins for example. These are often seasonal mechanisms and not all insects are equipped to handle cold environmental conditions. A chilled insect is more vulnerable to predation. Chilling an insect is the same as baiting in a hungry owl with a mouse. Both are not ethical and photos generated with an artificial setup are not a valid way for documenting nature…Jim


Jim, you bring up a good point about seasonality and ability. No chilling for me.


Chilling an insect?! What a cruel idea. Not gonna happen. But, baiting in a hungry owl? I don’t know about that. Isn’t that the same as feeding birds? Like I do with the hummingbirds we have here in South Texas. And when the opportunity arrises I take some photos. Is that unethical? Where is the difference to feed/bait an owl? Where do we draw the line?


Feeding / baiting an owl is clearly unethical and against any standards from any nature photography suggestions. The owls behavior can easily be altered. There are plenty of instances of people baiting / luring owls with mice (dead or alive) and causing them to be near roads and then get hit by passing cars. That is just one example of the issue. There are many, many others. It is NOT the same as providing bird seed for sparrows in your backyard or feeding hummingbirds. Here is a link the the NANPA guide to ethics.

It is always a challenging discussion, but I don’t see it as a tough call to see the difference with feeding backyard birds and hummers, versus owls, raptors, eagles, etc.

NPN does not allow the posting of any images where live bait was used to lure in an avian subject. Of course we are relying on the honesty of our members to comply, but that’s part of being an ethical nature photographer.

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