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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.