Butterfly Photo Tips and Inspiration

Butterflies are some of nature’s most beautiful and difficult to photograph insects. They constantly move, are spooked easily, and only come out during the right conditions. If you do snag a great shot of a butterfly, you’ll be rewarded with their intricate patterns, colorful wings, and interesting body structure. They also tend to be around some beautiful environments, like flowers, which only makes your image stand out even more. In this post we’ll cover a few quick and easy butterfly photo tips and provide some inspiration from a few talented photographers.

USFWSmidwest – Monarch butterfly
USFWSmidwest Monarch butterfly

Find The Butterflies

Knowing when and where to find butterflies might be the most important thing to consider when you’re trying to get a great photo.

Time

Butterflies enjoy the sunshine and you’ll find them most active during warm days, typically mid-morning and afternoon. If there are strong winds or colder weather, you probably won’t have much luck seeing these insects.

Location

Anywhere there is an abundance of plants and flowers will increase your chances of finding butterflies. Grasslands, parks, gardens, and wildlife refuges are just a few examples of where a butterfly likes to live. If you’re lucky, you’ll discover places that have a butterfly sanctuary. The one at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle is a popular spot to get up close to a lot of butterflies.

Abhinaba Basu – Butterfly at Pacific Science Center
Abhinaba Basu Butterfly at Pacific Science Center

Patience Is A Virtue

Some of the best photographers sit for hours and take thousands of pictures before getting the image they are looking for. Butterflies aren’t the easiest subjects to photograph, so being patient can yield positive results. You may find success by heading to a spot where butterflies typically are, finding a field of flowers or another beautiful background, and then just waiting for the right moment. It may take a few tries to find the perfect location and time, but eventually you’ll catch a butterfly in your chosen composition and end up with a great picture.

Invest In A Quality Lens

More than likely you’re going to be able to get a good image with the kit lens on your DSLR, and if that’s what you’re happy with, then stick with it. But if you want to step up your game a bit, save up your money and purchase a quality macro or zoom lens that will allow you to get close up shots of the butterfly. The detailed patterns on their wings, eyes and body makes the butterfly a very interesting insect to photograph.

Use A Tripod

If you’re trying to get a detailed shot of a butterfly, you’re probably going to be really close. This means that any movement or disruption can cause an image to not be as clear. If you want to get the sharpest picture possible, use a tripod to stabilize the camera while shooting. Since you’ll need to set up your composition in a timely manner, keeping the head loose will allow you to adjust your camera and lens quickly while still benefiting from the stability the tripod brings.

Get Creative

You’ll find the majority of butterflies are photographed on flowers, for good reason as it’s a very nice photo. But if you want to think outside the box and try something new, getting the butterfly to settle on your hand or a piece of fruit will make an interesting picture that will stand out from the rest. Please though, don’t catch and move the butterfly out of it’s natural environment.

Brandon – touch
Brandon touch

Do Your Research

Just reading the couple of photo tips in this blog post won’t prepare yourself fully for photographing butterflies. Reading books written by photographers with years of experience will be by far the best way to learn about butterfly photography. Getting to know the types of butterflies you are photographing may also inspire you to document all the different butterfly species. With around 20,000 of them, you could spend the rest of your life just taking photos of butterflies.

A good book to consider is Art and Science of Butterfly Photography by William Folsom.

art and science butterfly photography

Overall though, just picking up your camera everyday and applying the things you learn while shooting will always be the most productive way to get better at photography and give you the best chance at getting an amazing butterfly picture.

Butterfly Photo Inspiration

Here is a selection of beautiful butterfly pictures that will inspire you to go out and spend some time with these beautiful insects (and your camera). If you’d like to share with us your tips, leave a comment below.

richkidsunite – in the butterfly greenhouse
richkidsunite in the butterfly greenhouse

John Flannery – ICON for the Beautiful Macro Group. All nature shots welcome.
John Flannery ICON for the Beautiful Macro Group. All nature shots welcome.

Carl Wirth
Carl Wirth

Kenton Forshee – Insect
Kenton Forshee Insect

John Coley
John Coley

edwin hoek
edwin hoek

Shannon Kringen – butterfly blue rest
Shannon Kringen butterfly blue rest

Jay & Melissa Malouin – Butterfly on Echinacea
Jay & Melissa Malouin Butterfly on Echinacea

neys fadzil – My Butter Can Fly!
neys fadzil My Butter Can Fly!

zenbikescience – butterfly
zenbikescience butterfly

Nottsexminer – Comma Butterfly
Nottsexminer Comma Butterfly

Nottsexminer – Comma Butterfly
Nottsexminer Comma Butterfly

William Warby – Plain Tiger Butterfly
William Warby Plain Tiger Butterfly

bambe1964 – butterfly
bambe1964 butterfly

Kim MyoungSung – swallowtail butterfly (호랑 나비)
Kim MyoungSung swallowtail butterfly (호랑 나비)

Holly Occhipinti – Hungry Butterfly
Holly Occhipinti Hungry Butterfly

Rego Korosi – Butterfly
Rego Korosi Butterfly

Neil Sequeira – Butterfly
Neil Sequeira Butterfly

mrhayata – Butterfly
mrhayata Butterfly

zingyyellow…! – Butterfly
zingyyellow...! Butterfly

whologwhy – BUTTERFLY
whologwhy BUTTERFLY

Victor Camilo – butterfly
Victor Camilo butterfly

Tambako The Jaguar – Zebra butterfly
Tambako The Jaguar Zebra butterfly

Nick Page – Butterfly on Finger
Nick Page Butterfly on Finger

John Flannery – Ring around the Rosey
John Flannery Ring around the Rosey

Alias 0591 – Glasswinged butterfly
Alias 0591 Glasswinged butterfly

Sarath Kuchi – Butterfly Park, Houston
Sarath Kuchi Butterfly Park, Houston

Alias 0591 – Polkadot butterfly
Alias 0591 Polkadot butterfly

Artur – butterfly
Artur butterfly

Jason Trbovich – lone butterfly
Jason Trbovich lone butterfly

Susanne Nilsson – Butterfly with stripes
Susanne Nilsson Butterfly with stripes

Swallowtail Garden Seeds – Bordered Patch butterfly
Swallowtail Garden Seeds Bordered Patch butterfly

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