8 Tips for Photographing Butterflies - Digital Photography School

8 Tips for Photographing Butterflies

In this post, Steve Berardi from PhotoNaturalist discusses eight tips for photographing butterflies.

Photo by Steve Berardi

Photo by Steve Berardi

Butterflies are pretty sensitive little creatures. Get too close, and they’ll fly away in a hurry. And, even when you do get close, they’re constantly moving from flower to flower, gathering their most precious prize: sweet nectar. All this makes it difficult to photograph butterflies, but here are 8 tips for dealing with some of these problems:

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.

This photo was shot on a cold overcast day. The cold weather kept the butterfly from moving, and allowed me to position my macro lens just a few inches from the butterfly. (Photo by Steve Berardi)

This photo was shot on a cold overcast day. The cold weather kept the butterfly from moving, and allowed me to position my macro lens just a few inches from the butterfly. (Photo by Steve Berardi)


3. Position your camera’s sensor so it’s parallel to the butterfly’s 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 a 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.

What did I miss?

If you have another tip for photographing butterflies, please share it by leaving a comment below! Thanks!

About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, and computer scientist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California. Read more of his articles on nature photography at the PhotoNaturalist and check out his new eBook, Digital Wildflower Photography.

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  • Laks

    Sample… cropped to fit here !

  • NidiaWaleska

    Monarch butterfly captured after patiently waiting for it to choose a flower close to me.

  • davesalpha

    This one seemed to be sunning it self, maybe drying its wings.

  • Andy

    Shoot lots of pictures. This was my best shot out of about 50. He was there and gone in less than a minute.

  • Andy

    Here is the pic.

  • Pradeep Sahoo

    I feel its better to aim at the body instead of the wings those are moving almost always and faster compared to the body. Aiming at the wings confuses the camera a lot to focus and it becomes hard to get a sharp image.

  • John Kessler

    Some of those places ban photography, making the visit somewhat less interesting.

  • soucha

    :)

  • Gayathri Upamali

    Always be patient !!! Since I’m using a 18-55mm lens, it works best for me…
    http://chasethedreams28.blogspot.com/search/label/Nymphalidae

  • Sabrina

    First butterfly of the year.

  • Sabrina

    :)

  • Sabrina Ann

    :)

  • http://www.koshkasgifts.com/ Meryl

    “Butterflies love the sun, so if you cast a shadow on them, they’ll usually fly away.”

    Not to mention they’ll think you’re a predator. (Especially if you are also approaching them too quickly.)

  • Raden Adams

    If you really want the advantage, and if you like gardening and of course, photography and you want close up shots of various butterfly species, hummingbirds, birds and numerous other wildlife species, then plan ahead. Pick a nice sunny spot in the yard and in the spring sew as many varieties of Zinnia’s (from seed packets) as you can find. Butterflies and everything else, including yourself, will enjoy them to late autumn with huge colorful blooms, medium blooms, and all size plants. But, if you add Purple Coneflowers, Milkweeds, and just about any other flowering plant, especially the butterflies host plant or food, you will have opportunities to capture all the different kinds of butterflies almost everyday and especially during migration time! I also have great success attracting butterflies with all kinds of flowering plants in potted containers on my patio. I am a better gardener than photographer (very amatuer) so you should capture beautiful, sharp photos all summer and into the fall.

  • Norman

    Not sure what type this is, but took it a few years back.

  • Norman

    Took this a few years ago

  • Ali Cast

    I LOVE butterflies…

  • Guest

    I love butterflies !!!

  • http://alexcoroliu.smugmug.com Alex Coroliu

    Use a fruit syrup to attract butterflies

  • http://www.anticipationvideos.smugmug.com John Gutierrez

    I never use a tripod when photographing insects, as in these fluttering monarch butterflies. I want to have the agility to move and pivot about to catch an action shot like this. Yes, you have to “wait for it” a lot, but the waiting has its rewards.

  • dominika

    when you want to photography animals (not just butterflies and insects) it is good to first understand their biology (eg, what they like to eat?, when they eat? etc.)

    to watch some of my works visit my web http://www.dominikakustosz.com

  • Josh
  • Josh

    though it is true they fly away when you come close, i have my own techniques on how to photograph them up close. In this photo: http://graphiteonpaper.deviantart.com/art/Pretty-345843047 (click to see), I’ve photographed one using a canon powershot in macro mode.

  • Ragesh T R

    Just got lucky

  • Alin Pera

    I just love butterlfies!

  • Guest

    Another

  • Guest

    another

  • Santhoshi Badrinath

    My first try!!!

Some older comments

  • danny

    August 5, 2013 05:41 am

    if a plant is moving a lot in the wind i carefully place my tripod against the plant to reduce movement and the take the shot handheld.

  • Imogen

    June 12, 2012 11:06 am

    Ha, funny I have only just got to read this and I had just been to the Pacific Science Centre in Seattle where they have a butterfly house. These are my 2 fave shots, but I think I still have a lot to learn. Thanks for all the tips, I am off to the Vancouver Aquarium to practise (they also have butterflies). :)[eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/42907479@N04/7178469079/' title='IMG_0160' url='http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7093/7178469079_9179da1917.jpg'][eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/42907479@N04/7363677764/' title='IMG_0148' url='http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5453/7363677764_1d727ed9da.jpg']

  • Sandy

    June 12, 2012 03:43 am

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/luvnsurf/6717844367/' title='2012-01-16 Butterfly' url='http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7153/6717844367_be251877cb.jpg'][/url][/img]

  • Ron Lane

    June 11, 2012 08:41 am

    [eimg url='http://images3a.snapfish.com/232323232%7Ffp73436%3Enu%3D%3C3%3A7%3E632%3E25%3A%3EWSNRCG%3D34%3C965438434%3Bnu0mrj' title='232323232%7Ffp73436%3Enu%3D%3C3%3A7%3E632%3E25%3A%3EWSNRCG%3D34%3C965438434%3Bnu0mrj']

  • Simon

    June 9, 2012 12:30 am

    I'm not entirely in agreement with you on this. Here are my own techniques which work well for butterflies, moths, dragonflies and bees.

    1. Find a suitable site with an abundance of flowering plants preferably a meadow where the flowers and top of the grass is at a similar height, rather than shrubs with flowers at different heights.
    2. Sit down in the middle of the meadow and wait. Don't bother trying to photograph anything as there will not be much near you. Let the butterflies get used to you. After 10-15 mins you will be surrounded by them.
    3. Chose a sunny day with little wind. Use shutter speed priority at a 1250 or above. Do not worry about depth of field, you don't need it. If you shoot on manual you may not have enough time to make the settings and get the shot. You must take short cuts and rely on camera technology.
    4. Don't use a tripod, you will miss the best shots. Stay flexible with 360 degree flexibility and maneuverability.
    5. You can use auto focus but beware of grass and leaves that may interfere with this.
    6. Use your knees or a backpack to steady the camera. Shoot fast at around 4 frames a second. Where the wings vibrate at a high speed (e.g. bees and dragonflies you will need to increase the shutter speed up to 4000.
    7. Try and get as many species (butterflies, moths, bees etc.) on one flower head for both a dramatic image and to capture the interaction between the species during feeding.
    8. Have plenty of extra memory and spare batteries.
    9. Calcareous grassland and riparian zones can be highly rewarding habitats. Woodland sites may be affected by variable light conditions to be sure to chose a clearing or glade. Disturbed ground can be very rewarding as it is often home to pioneer species of flowers that are irresistible to insects.
    10. Enjoy as this can be a most rewarding and relaxing form of photography of a summers afternoon. Don't worry about identifying the species, there are plenty of on line enthusiasts to assist you.

  • Ricky

    June 8, 2012 10:50 pm

    Don't just fixated on one butterfly.
    [eimg url='http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=8873244' title='photo?photo_id=8873244']

  • Keith Duncan

    June 8, 2012 12:54 pm

    I should also have mentioned that shooting in heated high humidity butterfly houses is not without its problems - not the least of which is condensation on the lens and and other cold camera parts.

  • Keith Duncan

    June 8, 2012 12:46 pm

    And sometimes shear luck plays a big part as in this photo of a Monarch butterfly with its abodomen curved in the act of laying an egg. I have yet to see another photo which captures this critical moment. A fortuitous snap with a Canon G9 wich allowed greater depth of field and greater manouverability than my d-slr - see image at

    http://www.photosales.co.nz/details.php?gid=235&pid=22986

    [eimg url='http://www.photosales.co.nz/details.php?gid=235&pid=22986' title='details.php?gid=235&pid=22986']

  • Deb Lievens

    June 8, 2012 10:21 am

    I have a strategy to make up for the fact that I don't have fancy lenses. (Tho now I have a nice 18-200 Nikon.) I set my camera to the most pixels JPEG and then sneak up on the butterflies. I take one at a distance they accept and then keep moving in. With a quality lens I can zoom in later. I won't say my pix are necessarily prize winners, but they do the job for me. And some are really good. However, some species will always be skittish.

  • don

    June 8, 2012 07:34 am

    Canon Xsi 18-200 mm, practicing at the local butterfly exhibit definitely works. Patience is a must, being low to the ground works too. Be careful of the toddlers running around too[eimg url='https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151164017756562&set=a.10151164013621562.546577.823351561&type=3&theater' title='photo.php?fbid=10151164017756562&set=a.10151164013621562.546577.823351561&type=3&theater']

  • Sandy

    June 8, 2012 06:41 am

    We raise a few different types of butterflies. Such as this Monarch.

    [img]

    or we travel to Butterfly World.

  • Charly

    June 5, 2012 12:42 am

    I used a Novoflex 280mm (manual-)rapid-focus lens for this shot, you can keep distance and the lens is relatively cheap on ebay:
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/terapixel/7209261330/' title='The first Encounter' url='http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5449/7209261330_9f54928ffc.jpg']

  • Marcus S Davis

    June 4, 2012 03:48 pm

    I'm not sure if anyone mentioned this, but butterflies hang out upside down a lot, so check out the underside of leaves. Also, like other people have said, if you can find a butterfly exhibition, you can have access to dozens, if not hundreds of them. Check the internet for your city and chances are, you'll find one close to your city.

  • Penelope

    June 4, 2012 03:08 pm

    I never would have thought of number eight!

  • Brian

    June 4, 2012 09:52 am

    Great tips! I would suggest practicing at a butterfly sanctuary as well. They have a few in Massachusetts
    Brian
    @rum_pirate613 on instagram

  • Bob Dale

    June 4, 2012 09:22 am

    If you can position the sunlight coming from behind the butterfly it can even enhance the colors more. The challenge is not not get flare in your lens.

  • Jeff E Jensen

    June 4, 2012 02:20 am

    Some excellent advice and some fantasti images in the comments!

    http://blog.jeffejensenphotography.com/2011/07/shaunas-flowers.html

  • Tarique Sani

    June 3, 2012 12:59 pm

    A while back I had written a similar blog post which has my fav tips on photographing butterflies http://tariquesani.net/blog/2010/04/07/photographing-butterflies-a-mini-howto/

    Hope someone finds it useful

  • Scottc

    June 3, 2012 11:25 am

    Great advice! I kind of lucked into some butterfly shots at Mainau Island on the Bodensee in Germany.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/sets/72157623209942176/

  • steve slater

    June 3, 2012 07:04 am

    Something a bit different is to try hdr on a butterfly. Helps to bring the detail out.

    http://wildlifeencounters.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/African-Insects-butterflies-and-Spiders/G0000P6fRom6cZrw/I00004SvupNyOBnc

  • kb kanwar

    January 4, 2011 08:23 am

    My best choice to click butterflies is my D300S Nikon camera with 70-300 VR lens and I prefer to wear bright colored dress whenever I am out for shooting. Patience is on top.

  • aNiNZ

    June 22, 2010 04:55 am

    thanx for the tips.. really helpful especially that i'm planning on taking pictures of butterflies!

  • Shelley Walker

    March 23, 2010 11:58 am

    Why can't I get any of my comments to show up after I post? Let's see if this one works...

  • Shelley Walker

    March 23, 2010 11:48 am

    [eimg url='http://doublezero.smugmug.com/Nature/Everglades-41009/bflarge/814734239_ycaco-M.jpg' title='814734239_ycaco-M.jpg']

  • Eric Fry

    March 21, 2010 12:45 pm

    A good sweet cologne can help you get shots like this one on my thumb, even with a cheap point and shoot like mine.

    [eimg url='http://aminus3.s3.amazonaws.com/image/g0007/u00006058/i00676559/73c2e1dadc0867689a9079428916fd33_small.jpg' title='73c2e1dadc0867689a9079428916fd33_small.jpg']

  • nitrox

    March 21, 2010 09:39 am

    I agree that temperature is the key. This shot was mid November at 5PM on a rock by a mountain stream in the Smokies. The butterfly posed nicely on a rock for about 5 mins - enough time to set up a tripod, manually focus my 105 macro and fire several shots.

    Go figure.

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/robingreen1131/4107811491/' title='Too Late to Migrate' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2490/4107811491_2c69b759b2_o.jpg']

  • Tiffany

    March 21, 2010 08:01 am

    Wow lots of beautiful shots everyone! I've noticed that a lot of zoos are including a butterfly house inside. Usually costs a dollar or so to go inside. One of the Smithsonian museums in Washington DC (don't remember which one) has a butterfly exhibit in it. It's a little pricey, I think 5 or 7 dollars but worth it, specially when the Smithsonian Museums are free to get into anyways. The butterflies there were landing on my kids' heads, they loved it!
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3619/3402800236_69048f140e.jpg

  • Tim

    March 21, 2010 07:23 am

    I like to carry a can of hair spray with me. A light coating over the butterfly will keep him still while I take the shot..................OK, just kidding PETA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sinu S Kumar

    March 20, 2010 08:00 pm

    [eimg url='http://enchantingkerala.org/digital-photography-school/icons/plain-tiger-butterfly.jpg' title='plain-tiger-butterfly.jpg']

    Some more tips to help you take great photos of butterflies.
    14 Tips for Photographing Butterflies

  • Dick Rabun

    March 20, 2010 07:41 am

    Great Tips and the comments are helpful also. Actually I just read the tips in Steve's ebook, "Digital Wildflower Photography" which I have printed out for ready reference. It has excellent suggestions on Wildflower Photography, including post processing.

  • Amir Iqbal

    March 20, 2010 05:10 am

    This is really fantastic I would love to apply these tips in this spring and will enjoy my BP(butterfly photography)

  • Ariana Murphy

    March 20, 2010 03:03 am

    Doug, I don't know how everybody else does it, but I live in the Niagara region, and although there are plenty of butterflies, I end up chasing them all over the neighbourhood trying to get a shot, and come away empty-handed anyway. The neighbours think I'm nuts. Hooray for the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory! I would love to see some of your desert beauties. Do you have al ink?

  • Doug McKay

    March 20, 2010 02:20 am

    Wow some very nice shots! I am a bit surprised at the amount of people commenting that butterflys were so hard to find in green spots on the earth. I live in a desert and the butterfly/moth populations are plentiful.

  • Steve Berardi

    March 20, 2010 01:41 am

    @Carl - Good lens choice :) It also works great with the 1.4 extender, turning it into a 420mm which becomes somewhat usable for bird photography (in good situations, heheh).

    @mark - I primarily use Canon's 300mm f/4L for photographing butterflies (what I used for the first photo in this post). The telephoto is great because it helps keep you far away from the butterfly, and helps you get that nice out of focus background. One of the most important aspects of the lens though is it's short minimum focus distance of 4.9 ft.. A lot of telephotos have a much longer minimum (sometimes more than 10 ft), and this makes it impossible to focus on close butterflies and fill the frame. Extension tubes can help decrease that minimum, and I use them fairly often with the 300mm.

    I also sometimes use a 100mm macro lens, when I can get close enough to the butterfly (not often). The second photo in this post was taken with the macro lens.

  • Tom

    March 20, 2010 01:39 am

    Sorry I did forget to mention my equipment I do use for this kind of pictures.
    For my butterflypictures I do use 180mm macro sometimes with ringflash.
    Using ringflash --> F14 1/200 manual focus (depending on distance, but in most cases usefull).
    In some cases you get unnatural colors using flash.
    [eimg url='"http://www.natuurlijkwild.nl/fotoalbums/Gallery/Insecten/Vlinders/Overige Vlinders (c)/slides/IMG_0000024643.JPG"' title='IMG_0000024643.JPG"']
    In these case I stopped using flash to get the more natural color of this butterfly.

    Sometimes I do use a 100-400 mm.

  • Mark Fleser

    March 20, 2010 12:18 am

    What lens do you suggest, I don't have a macro lens but I do have extension tubes. What combo of tubes and lens focal length would you recommend.

  • Carl

    March 19, 2010 10:17 pm

    Hi Steve

    Just got the EF 300mm f4 and what an amazing lens. I can also recommend it for butterflies. telephoto makes it possible to use large apperture.

    Great article.

  • bettyb

    March 19, 2010 09:49 pm

    I found if you treat them like birds and use a fast shutter speed ,about 2000 secs seems to work well.

  • Ranjeet

    March 19, 2010 06:39 pm

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/ranjeet190/4391368775/' title='The way, Nature transforms colors' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4056/4391368775_e9387796ae.jpg']

  • Nancy Crawford

    March 19, 2010 01:09 pm

    I had the good luck one summer morning after running the sprinkler and throughly watering a rose bush, a visitng butterfly lit on the bush and didn't move for nearly an hour! It wasn't intimidated by my presence and I was able to take all the photographs that I wanted to.

  • K.R. JOGARAO

    March 19, 2010 12:53 pm

    I always use Tamaron Tele Zoom for photographing Butterflies which is an excellent, covenient lens and very cheap. NICE ARTICLE and Educative

  • Prowpatareeya

    March 19, 2010 11:10 am

    Thanks a lot, I've tried to do this with out flash.

  • Jay Kleiman

    March 19, 2010 10:51 am

    You did not mention 1) trying to get an uncluttered background without very bright or dark areas and 2) aperture - wider (lower f stop) is better if possible to blur the background. Your examples above clearly demonstrate the "right" way to do this.
    Jay Kleiman

  • louis lasky

    March 19, 2010 10:48 am

    Great info. Covered it all. Nicely done.

  • Marjorie B

    March 19, 2010 07:08 am

    Great article, and great reader tips. One more: you can order butterfly larvae online or from catalogs and hatch them yourself. My niece does this for her daycare kids. Plenty of pretty insects there, and you can release on a day and time of your own choosing. Plus, many butterflies are "pre-programmed" to return to their hatching site to lay their eggs, so you could have a repeat performance in twelve months. Also, if you or someone in your household likes to garden, do a little research and plant a butterfly garden. I know some are attracted by the color blue, so I always wear jeans. They come and sit right on my pants leg. But the single most important ingredient is patience. HOLD STILL. Let them come to you.

  • ElDavid

    March 19, 2010 06:48 am

    Very good advice.

    A zoom lens helps. I use a 70-300mm 4:5.6

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidenriquefinol/4293862435/' title='David Finol - fauna UNICA: mariposa monarca' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4052/4293862435_77e2ec05c9.jpg']

  • ElDavid

    March 19, 2010 06:46 am

    Very true advice.
    A zoom lens heps. I use a 70-300 4:5.6

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidenriquefinol/4293862435/[eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidenriquefinol/4293862435/' title='David Finol - fauna UNICA: mariposa monarca' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4052/4293862435_77e2ec05c9.jpg']

  • Ariana Murphy

    March 19, 2010 04:50 am

    Great article! Great tips, too. I'll have to plan a trip soon! I also am fortunate to have a permanent facility, the Niagara Butterfly Conservatory, which is open year round and is well stocked with local and exotic species. I have a gallery on Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/arianasart/4402182061
    if you care to have a look.

  • Tom

    March 19, 2010 04:17 am

    Great blog. I think it's very usefull for us.
    I made some pictures myself. You can find them on my website and also on
    Butterflies
    A number were made in a butterfly garden and some are wild butterflies.
    Hope you do enjoy looking at them.

    Thanks.

    Tom Smit.

  • Mary K

    March 19, 2010 04:17 am

    Best tip - go to a Butterfly exhibit! You cannot help but walk out of it with a bunch of great shots. Brookside Gardens in Bethesda Maryland has a great butterfly exhibit from May 1 through September 19th.

    http://www.montgomeryparks.org/brookside/wings_of_fancy.shtm

  • Gary R

    March 19, 2010 03:41 am

    I use a Canon 100mm macro lens. Let's me be a bit further away. Closest focusing distance is about 12 in. I also have a Monfrotto tripod head with a grip hand release and lock system. This lets me move it quickly and relock it just by letting go of the grip trigger.[eimg url='http://garyrechtin.zenfolio.com/p116624898/h16fd8a69?customize=2#ha5f14a2' title='h16fd8a69?customize=2#ha5f14a2']

  • Syu

    March 18, 2010 01:58 pm

    My try out using my canon 100mm Macro F2.8.
    IMG01

    100mm Macro F2.8 with attached Raynox DC250
    IMG02

    Love using my macro lens to shot but one challenge with this is to have enough light source (or attached with ext flash) to snap with high shutter at aperture F11 above.

  • Syu

    March 18, 2010 01:54 pm

    My try out using my canon 100mm Macro F2.8.
    [eimg url='http://public.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pLiEHUrgH6dd-13A7AILt83yr-aZ4TaeV8gRBwBnoieOyL-P9JlsFbMdw3JwNXtSrXWzlEZJgdBaMyqWJqeG5cg/IMG_0081.jpg' title='IMG_0081.jpg']

    100mm Macro F2.8 with attached Raynox DC250
    [eimg url='http://public.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pV2wQlf_iHs6NzvXT88YoQPt7-w1ig_d8lVRB0zpX8XwhgyBcfwyzPeQrj-sM9qtlwmzXNVNEzuB_fOMDrg4QiQ/IMG_0114.jpg' title='IMG_0114.jpg']

    Love using my macro lens to shot but one challenge with this is to have enough light source (or attached with ext flash) to snap with high shutter at aperture F11 above.

  • Ian

    March 18, 2010 01:45 pm

    Didn't post - let me try it again:
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/eman_ian/2937054762/' title='Delicate lady' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2350/2937054762_e4159b640d.jpg']

  • Ian

    March 18, 2010 01:44 pm

    Sorry, didn't quite get it posted.
    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/eman_ian/2937054762/' title='Delicate lady' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2350/2937054762_e4159b640d.jpg']

  • Ian

    March 18, 2010 01:43 pm

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/eman_ian/2937054762/' title='Delicate lady' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2350/2937054762_e4159b640d.jpg']

  • Ian

    March 18, 2010 01:42 pm

    Good advice, although I would prefer a good macro lens instead of a tripod. Insect photography takes a lot of patience, but it can be very rewarding. This is a favorite of mine:

  • Richard Guy Briggs

    March 18, 2010 01:22 pm

    I have to agree with the first comment about finding a live butterfly exhibit... Carleton University here in Ottawa, ON has one every fall. It is a permanent butterfly greenhouse that has an open house once per year. It is a huge hit with the kids. There is no shortage of opportunities in this environment. This is my favourite shot from the last session (my 2 year old daughter is looking on):

    http://tricolour.net/photos/2008/10/05/10-17-00i1.html:
    [eimg url='http://tricolour.net/photos/2008/10/05/med/10-17-00i1.jpg' title='10-17-00i1.jpg']

    The whole lot is here: http://tricolour.net/photos/2008/10/05/butterflies.html

    We even had mugs made for the grandparents of some of the ones with the kids in front of the enlargements.

    These were taken with an 8 year old Canon D30 with a variety of 17-40mm f/4.0L, 50mm f/1.4, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lenses and no flash.

  • Chris

    March 18, 2010 10:17 am

    Great Article and love all the tips from the readers. Thanks everyone for sharing! I have had no luck with Butterflies. We have lots of bees in the yard...wonder if butterflies are scared of them. (?)

  • Sandra

    March 18, 2010 04:54 am

    http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4041/4440629033_d7f0e4ab6e.jpg

  • Sandra

    March 18, 2010 04:53 am

    Thanks for the great post! This is one of my images I shot today.

  • sandra

    March 18, 2010 04:48 am

    Thanks for the great post!
    This is one of my images I shot today.

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/kincsem/4440629033/' title='peacock butterfly - week 11' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4041/4440629033_d7f0e4ab6e.jpg']

  • Mahesh Garg

    March 18, 2010 12:19 am

    Nice article steve..I always thought it as a great experience, but now I know it also challenging. Thanks for the tips ow I have to put on my hands on this. Sure I will always remember while clicking butterfly's. click click..

  • Aramel D'Mello

    March 18, 2010 12:16 am

    Congratulations this chromatic composition and the armonia of tones next to affection of the set make that we let us have moments of reflection with this contact with the nature wonder and a look the holy ghost of one I photograph gotten passionate with the values of the nature, congratulations, very found pretty and its composition of scene and colors likeable. I thank you for this moment.
    Aramel D' Mello to photographer from Brazil.

  • Ritin Jain

    March 17, 2010 11:54 pm

    I took this using Tamron telephoto zoom lens with macro function. So I never bothered to go very close to the butterfly. :)

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/48041290@N07/4440124945/' title='DSC_0351' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4072/4440124945_279cc7b6dd.jpg']

  • Chandu

    March 17, 2010 09:21 pm

    nice Post Steve...

    @Kena... totally agree with you... My took my first shot at 'butterfly pics' in chicago zoo- butterfly show...

    im attaching a recent picsture that I took ....I used a telephoto lens...

    [eimg url='http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_3en_dIEgQ8M/S5cs4QJQH-I/AAAAAAAAM3A/zsotcN5-B3E/s1600-h/DSC_0558.jpg' title='DSC_0558.jpg']

  • Prateek

    March 17, 2010 08:23 pm

    To get good pics, what I did was to go during the day in the garden. It allowed me to use fast shutter speeds with good DOF apertures (f/9 or so)

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/prateek-shoots/4338259208/' title='I want more' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4011/4338259208_bbff851979.jpg']

  • Snooze

    March 17, 2010 06:55 pm

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/dollierv/4418861061/' title='Kissed' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4050/4418861061_c1a525e7c4.jpg']

  • Snooze

    March 17, 2010 06:53 pm

    Don't hesitate. Snatch the moment and just click.

  • Umesh Vaghela

    March 17, 2010 05:35 pm

    Great and informative article thanks for sharing. I had few experiments with rotten fruits. And could get such closed images with even my kit lens EF18-55 mm f3.5-5.6 IS Lens with Canon EOS 40D.
    I keep rotten fruits like Banana, Custard Apple, Pineapples, Pear, Pomogranate(Anar), Grapes, etc on our terrace daily. Butterflies were attracted by juicy alcohol of the rotten fruits and started visiting our terrace daily.
    Initially common Baron (female), Common Baron (Male) and later many more also started coming. I had photographed a few of them. While I use to shade him/ her with my shadow he/she was opening both wings to get sunlight and I got full wingspan pictures also. I observe that after they suck juice the fruit, the butterfly goes in trance. They also realise that I won't harm them. Hence I could be so close to them and could make nice micro video footage also.
    Link for photos: http://umeshvaghela.blogspot.com/

  • Alberto

    March 17, 2010 12:45 pm

    Steve, Thank you for your comment, i am deeply honored!!. Well i use neutral density filter 0.6 with a sony 230 and lens 200mm. I really enjoy you blog and your comment, have a great day!!! Best Regards.

  • Steve Berardi

    March 17, 2010 12:37 pm

    Hey everyone, thanks for your nice comments!

    @Evaldas - I've never experimented with flash outdoors, but I've heard it works well sometimes with insect closeups to get rid of small shadows.

    @nix74 - Ahh, I knew I forgot something :) My favorite lens for photographing butterflies (and dragonflies) is Canon's 300mm f/4L, which is super sharp, and has a minimum focus distance of 4.9 ft (add an extension tube to that, and it'll be enough for most medium sized to larger butterflies). But, I think any telephoto (at least 200mm) with a short min focus distance would be good for photographing butterflies.

    @Kelvin - Great shot!!

    @Jason - I love that shot of the golden-silk spider in your link!

    @Eric - those are really interesting tips (wearing bright colors and sweet cologne). I just might try them this spring/summer. thanks!

    @Alberto - I think your shot is pretty good! The lighting looks a little unnatural to me though - is that some kind of filter you did in post-processing?

  • johnp

    March 17, 2010 12:14 pm

    Great article thanks. I personally prefer using a monopod for that sort of work, much more flexible if not quite as stable.

  • Alberto

    March 17, 2010 10:37 am

    I am deeply sorry, the page above mentioned is not mine. This is the photo i did mention.

    or

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/pupachin/4404955522/' title='Mariposas Monarca' url='http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4053/4404955522_f4f839e81c.jpg']

  • Bryan

    March 17, 2010 09:08 am

    AS per my previous comment, here's a couple of photos from Lasswade -

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/bry_robertson/2298462891/' title='Striped Butterfly!!' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2280/2298462891_cd533b354a_o.jpg']

    [eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/bry_robertson/2298463029/' title='Butterfly in the dark' url='http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2064/2298463029_a589cbc722.jpg']

  • Bryan

    March 17, 2010 09:04 am

    Great article, it's been a couple of years since I photographed butterflies, and it was in a butterfly centre (Lasswade just outside of Edinburgh) using my old Canon S2 rather than my SLR with macro lens.

    Best time to go was before midday as the butterflies were just beginning to wake up so were just sitting there warming themselves making them easy to capture!

  • WJD

    March 17, 2010 08:51 am

    Last summer I was successful on several occasions. Hope to improve this year.

    Patience is the most important thing.
    Sense of humor helps too cause I'd swear they're messin' with me - no matter how I'd wait or move, more often than not theyd know...

  • Alberto

    March 17, 2010 06:36 am

    I do not know about your post by the time i toke this pictures, i only want your comments, what do you think? I believe i made some mystakes, but i got lucky. Best Regards.

    [http://www.flickr.com/photos/example/2910192942/]

  • jim miller

    March 17, 2010 06:18 am

    Fast telephoto (fixed or zoom) are key to getting both maximal DOF and outside of the insect's circle of fear. When I shoot, it is typically with my 300mm f4 and I use a monopod rather than a tripod. If the butterflies are habituated to humans, then I will use my extension tubes to allow me decrease the minimum focusing distance.

  • Eric Fry

    March 17, 2010 05:24 am

    Wearing brightly colored clothes and a sweet-smelling cologne helps attract the butterflies near you. I've taken plenty of good butterfly photos with a point and shoot while getting just inches away from the butterfly.

  • Killian

    March 17, 2010 05:20 am

    I am lucky to have an arboretum very close to my office. Sometimes on my lunch hour, I will go over there with my camera and lose myself for a bit, to get a nice mental break. Shooting "flutterbys" as my kids called them, is a favorite.

    Great list. Makes me want to rush spring so I can go back over there!

  • Alset

    March 17, 2010 04:04 am

    Butterflies is beautiful. The list of tips is great.

  • Kimberly

    March 17, 2010 03:45 am

    Great list. I photograph butterflies at exhibits, there are two or three in my area that are open during the summer. The butterflies stay on branches/plants longer, there are plenty of butterflies to photograph, the lighting is great, and if you go early, you have a long stretch of time to yourself.

  • Pamela Hubbard

    March 17, 2010 03:41 am

    For those of you who do not live in an area that has an abundance of butterflies or moths there are Butterfly Havens or Pavilions that are a wonderful place to see and learn all about butterflies! Your photo opportunities will be flying all about and yes patience is still required. Here is a link to one of my blogs about our Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado. My favorite place to visit.
    http://photomojoartphotography.blogspot.com/2009/10/dregs-of-workplace-can-certainly.html

  • Bjarne

    March 17, 2010 03:18 am

    The most important thing in my experience, is to do every move really slooowly - ie. at less than half the normal speed. It might look silly, but it works. It is far to easy to get carried away, and that is when you frighten them. Try to look more like a branch in the breeze than a bird flying by!

  • Woody

    March 17, 2010 01:37 am

    We have a butterfly bush in our yard. Near it, we have planters with parsley. The Swallowtail butterfly's feed on the butterfly bush and lay their eggs in the parsley. Once the eggs hatch, we capture the caterpillars and raise them in a container. A couple weeks later, they emerge from their chrysalis, their wings are wet and they can't fly. Allow them to crawl onto a nice flower and they're pretty much captive in the wild until their wings dry. It's a great opportunity to get shots. I documented last year's process on my blog. I hope to improve the documentary this summer. I am hoping to have planters of milkweed, since that is what Monarch's prefer to lay their eggs.

    http://2zars.blogspot.com/2009/08/how-to-grow-butterfly.html

    I use a 100mm macro lens and manual focus (pretty much a given for macro work).

    You can also get shots from the butterfly bush. Set up the tripod and be very patient. Move slowly.

  • Will

    March 17, 2010 01:25 am

    Great article. We have always used flash and a diffuser to get additional light onto the subject. This is one of my favourites taken using this technique: http://b-l.me/3v
    [eimg url='http://www.burrard-lucas.com/image/united_kingdom/preview/common_blue_butterfly.jpg' title='common_blue_butterfly.jpg']

  • Jason Collin Photography

    March 17, 2010 01:25 am

    The list of tips is pretty thorough. The only thing I would add is use at least a 100mm lens. I would also use a 70-200mm as long as its minimum focal distance is around 5 feet, or ideally an even longer prime macro lens than 100mm.

    I would also consider using an external flash. For my butterfly shot in the link below I used the Nikkor AF-S 105mm VR micro f/2.8G lens and an Nikon SB-600 Speedlight to make it (on a Nikon D300)

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2009/11/15/flora-fauna-of-jb-starkey-wilderness-park.html

  • kelvin

    March 17, 2010 01:21 am

  • kelvin

    March 17, 2010 01:20 am

    Use fast lenses :)[eimg link='http://www.flickr.com/photos/13063462@N03/3682886599/' title='Butterfly Fantasy' url='http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3549/3682886599_bd859ee3d5.jpg']

  • kelvin

    March 17, 2010 01:19 am

    Use fast lenses :)

  • David Brooks

    March 17, 2010 12:50 am

    Probably obvious advice, but the best trick I know of is to use the longest zoom lens I have and then push it as far as I can. That way it can do whatever it wants and I can stay a reasonable distance away.

    Kena's advice is sound as well. Butterflies never seem to be around, and they're really skittish when they are. So if you can find a place to practice on live and exotic butterflies it'll really help.

  • nix74

    March 17, 2010 12:49 am

    You have not mention which lens are more suitable for butterfly shooting. Does a 90mm macro do the job best or a longer tele lens ?

  • Matt

    March 17, 2010 12:37 am

    I have always liked using my 200mm zoom lens to photograph butterflies and other small bugs. You can stand a few feet away and still get a macro-like field of view. The down side is the drop in the amount of light getting through the lens. So, as Steve said, bump up that ISO to help keep the shutter speed high.

  • Prime

    March 17, 2010 12:32 am

    Steve, thanks for sharing these useful information.
    I find it very useful to keep the camera in the program mode and lens in auto focus mode. This will ensure that I get at least one good photo of the butterfly as these little beauties are very agile and unpredictable.

  • Evaldas

    March 17, 2010 12:21 am

    What about using flashguns?

  • Kena

    March 17, 2010 12:17 am

    If you want to experiment with butterfly photography, it's worth looking for a live butterfly exhibition (like the one going on right now at the Montreal Botanical Gardens). It's a bit of cheat, but you'll get lots of photo opportunities and you'll be able to tweak your setup and technique in a controlled environment. And as a bonus, the specimen are usually more varied and more exotic than what you'd find in North America.

    I've given this a try last week-end (see the link for my pics), and while I could have done much better, it's been a great learning experiment, and I'll be much more efficient next time I try to photograph butterflies in a real setting.

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