Photographing Butterflies

Glasswing Butterfly On Purple BushPhotographing Butterflies is a great way to gain some experience with your new DSLR or point & shoot and a great way to get some really cool images while you're learning.

Photo Gear Needed:

  • Camera - DSLR or Point & Shoot,  You'll get some nice shots with your iPhone or Android but because of hand movement the shots won't be close to the quality of the other cameras.
  • Tripod - YES!  TRIPOD!  Get used to using it! Almost every shot I'm going to show you was shot on a tripod.  If you want shots you are proud of and shots you can make in to post cards or calendars etc. use a tripod.  It makes the shot SO MUCH sharper.
  • Camera shutter cable release.  Same result, sharp images.  If you don't have one, try using your camera's two or ten second shutter delay function.
  • Lenses.  All of these were shot either with a telephoto zoom or a standard 100mm macro prime lens.  A good all purpose lens will work also.
  • Micro cloth towel.  Use this to keep any misting moisture off your camera and your lenses clean.

Keep your ISO low, 100-200.  I'd suggest if you are new to this use Av or Aperture priority on your camera, or the Flower setting.

Where to shoot!

I shot many of these shots at local botanic gardens, and some in my own back yard.  The butterflies were in an enclosed pavilion and yes they were flitting and flying all around, but it takes alot of energy for a butterfly to fly, and when there are so many flowers, they just have to stop to get some nourishment.

More Settings

Aperture really depends on two things:

  • Your desired end result of the image you are shooting (do you want everything in focus or just the background?)
  • The wind and the subject's movement.  If you have a breeze while trying this exercise, you can shoot all you want, but you probably won't be happy.  Either be patient or stop and go have a beer!  If your subject is moving, it will stop eventually. Be patient.

Okay, so back to aperture.  I'd start with something in the middle of the road, say f8 or f11.  Check your results and move along from there.  The key is setting the aperture to allow the user to focus on the butterfly, making it VERY sharp and the other areas blurred out to the point of not distracting from the image.  Good Luck!