Shooting Butterflies

Tips on Shooting Butterflies

Thank you Jim Emery.  He sent along some tips he found on the internet for shooting butterflies.  Here they are:

8 Tips for Photographing Butterflies

1.  Use a tripod but keep the head loose – Butterflies move quickly from flower to flower, so you won’t have time to lock in your tripod.  But, you can still use it for some stability by keeping the head loose (so you can quickly move the camera).

2.  Wait for colder weather – Butterflies need heat from the sun to use their wings, so they like to take it easy when it’s colder out (early morning or late afternoon).  With colder weather you’ll be able to approach them more easily.

3.  Position you camera’s sensor so it’s parallel to the butterfly wings – You only get one geometrical plane of complete sharpness, so you want to put as much of your subject in this plane as possible.  With  butterflies, you’ll want their body and wings tack sharp, so make sure your camera’s sensor is parallel to them.

4.  Wait until the butterfly is frontlit by the sun – Side lighting will usually result in a harsh shadow across the butterfly’s wings, and backlighting is always difficult because of flares.  So, wait until the butterfly moves to a position where it’s frontlit by the sun.

5.  Use a fast shutter – When you’re photographing butterflies, three things are almost always moving:  the camera, the butterfly, and the flower it’s perched on.  To help freeze the action and increase your chances of getting a sharp photo, use a fast shutter by increasing your ISO to 400.

6.  Shoot in JPEG mode (sometimes) – If you’re having a hard time with the wind and constantly moving butterfly, you may want to consider shooting in JPEG instead of RAW.  This will allow you to snap a lot more shots in a burst, increasing your chances of getting a sharp photo (when everything stood still for a microsecond).

7.  Wait for butterflies (patiently), don’t chase them – If the butterflies seem extra sensitive when you’re trying to approach them, then try to just wait patiently at one flower instead.  Although butterflies will usually get scared if you approach them, they’ll usually land on flowers right next to you if you’re already sitting there.  Be patient though:  it might be 15-20 minutes before a butterfly shows up.

8.  Be careful not to cast a shadow on the butterfly – Butterflies love the sun, so if you cast a shadow on them, they’ll usually fly away.  Remember this as you’re approaching them.