Here are 13 butterfly photography tips that will help you capture the true beauty of butterflies in pictures:
1. Get your settings right- It doesn’t matter how good your camera is if your settings are wrong for shooting butterflies outdoors. For instance, you’ll often need a faster shutter speed to prevent blur associated with a fast-moving subject.
Get invaluable settings advice from the pros listed further down the page…
2. Upgrade your Lens- What’s wrong with your standard 18-55mm kit lens?:
Kit lenses cost less money, but you’ll pay in other ways. They’re made with inferior glass which produces vignetting and color fringing on your images. They also have more distortion at the widest settings.
I realize many of you opt for smartphones or superzoom cameras without attachable lenses. These may be a better option for some and you can decide which camera type best fits your needs with tip #10…
3. Know thy camera- If you don’t know your camera inside/out try to “know it well” BEFORE your first butterfly encounter. Otherwise, there’s no telling what you might do (or forget to do) in all the flutter and excitement.
If you’re looking for a new camera, make sure you research and get ratings and reviews from people who have actually used the equipment you are looking to buy:
4. FLASHBURST!- If you have the ability to take several butterfly pictures with one push of a button, try it once in a while. You’ll have more opportunities to capture the perfect moment with a butterfly that’s constantly flapping its wings.
5. Photograph morning or evening- During these periods butterflies are often sitting out with their wings spread wide to absorb heat from the sun.
6. Photograph monarch butterflies on Liatris ligulistylis– It’s like they’re in a trance when they feed on these flowers. I’m often within “T-rex arms length” and they hardly know I’m there. My nephew has even gotten a couple of them to crawl on his finger…once, as I was explaining to him that a butterfly would never crawl on his finger.
7. Get Down!- Some of my best photos are taken lying down or kneeling. This makes for interesting angles and seems to spook the butterflies less. Many butterflies, including monarchs, contrast beautifully against a sky blue background. It’s much easier to utilize a blue sky backdrop from ground level.
8. Steady your Camera- If you’re sitting on the ground brace arms on your knees. When standing up you can bring your elbows in toward your chest.
8b. An Easier Way to Steady your Camera– a monopod makes it far easier for you to steady your camera, while chasing after your elusive subject.
9. Play with your Settings- An example of this would be to adjust your ISO settings (sensitivity of the image sensor) to determine the tradeoffs with noise at higher settings versus the stop action of the butterfly.
10. Learn from the pros
Before diving into butterfly photography and taking fab photos in the flower garden, it’s helpful to understand the opportunities and challenges of nature and butterfly photography. This knowledge can help you develop good techniques and assist you in making the best equipment decisions for your particular situation going forward.
11. Photo Editing Software- There is rarely a photo or video you take that won’t need some type of editing. The editing program I use has lots of photoshop functionality, without the photoshop price. It has served my needs well on this blog.
These are some things I use editing software for on a regular basis:
- cropping and blowing up photos for greater detail
- sharpening images that are slightly out of focus
- minor color adjustments or enhancements
- writing on photos and illustrations
- lightening dark shadows and toning down highlights (there’s nothing gloomier than a dark butterfly picture)
- cool photo effects with a click of your mouse
Get more details about Adobe Elements editing software by clicking the links below:
12. If you Raise Monarchs…
When you first release butterflies, you have a small window of opportunity to photograph them after their butterfly wings have dried, but before they’re ready to fly off into the wild blue yonder.
If you can photograph them during this brief window, you’ll capture a brand new butterfly with vibrant fresh wings, for the perfect butterfly photo.
13. Budget-Conscious Macro Butterfly Photography?
You can spend hundreds (or even thousands) on an expensive macro lens or try using an extension tube like I did for this monarch chrysalis photo: