Do you want to take some great butterfly photos? Then this blog is for you, where I am going to share with you some tips and tricks to help you in your butterfly photography.
Butterflies are tiny and sensitive but they are very fast. They keep fluttering and moving from one flower to another and hardly sit still. And even if they do, they may fly away the moment you take your camera close to them. All this makes it difficult to photograph butterflies, but here are 10 tips for dealing with some of these problems.
If you don’t like reading lengthy blogs, I have made a video tutorial about butterfly photography too.
Check out the different gardens and parks, having a flower garden with plants chosen specifically to attract butterflies, in your city. My favourite spot for butterfly photography in Mumbai is Maharashtra Nature Park, that has a garden dedicated towards butterflies. So do some research into where you have such butterfly gardens in your city.
I find I get more butterflies from 11am to 1pm at Maharashtra Nature Park, ie when the sun is up, and less during the early morning. Maybe because butterflies love the sun. Also, there will be more of them in the winter and monsoon, and less during summer. So as per the climatic condition in your area, you need to find out when the butterflies are more active.
Recommended equipment for butterfly photography includes a DSLR and a telephoto macro lens. I don’t have a macro lens. So I use my 70-300mm kit lens. And I’m quite happy with the results. Any lens that gives you a focal length of more than 100mm should be fine. Why more than 10mm, you ask? Because you have to maintain a considerable distance from the butterflies or else they will fly away.
I have also used my point and shoot camera for butterfly photography. It may not be able to capture the butterflies in action or flight, but if the butterfly is sitting still, you can just zoom in and click your butterfly photo. If your mobile allows shutter speed control, you may try that as well. Many people recommend using a tripod or monopod. But according to me, a tripod or monopod can restrict my view and speed. It becomes heavy and by the time I set my tripod and frame my photo, my butterfly may fly away. But you may try it if you like.
My aperture has to be wide in order to get a shallow depth of field. So I keep it around f 6, that is the least my kit lens allows me. If you have a fast lens, I suggest you don’t go below f 5. Shutter speed has to be very fast. I keep it around 1/500 for slow-moving butterflies like the Common Crow or Striped Tiger and 1/1000 for fast-moving butterflies like the Common Lime or Common Mormon. I set my camera on aperture priority and keep my ISO such that I get such a fast shutter speed. Since I shoot in broad daylight, an ISO of 500 should be sufficient. You should set your camera to the burst mode so that your camera will keep clicking as you keep the shutter release button pressed. I don’t use my flash, as it may just scare the butterflies away. I keep my exposure compensation around -0.7 so avoid gettings highlights in my leaves.
The most important virtue that you need to possess for butterfly photography is patience. I’ve noticed when I go for a photo walk with a group of 15-20 photographers, the butterflies don’t stay at one place or stay hidden since there are so many people around. But if I go alone or with 2-3 friends, I pick a spot where the butterflies are fluttering and observe. Are there any flowers where the butterflies are frequently flying to? So I choose any one flower or spot and wait for the butterflies to come there. After a few minutes, the butterflies get used to you. They kinda sense that you mean no harm and can trust you. And they start showing up and stay on those flowers for some more time. When I go for photo walks, people get frustrated when they don’t get their first butterfly shot right. But guys you have to wait. In a few minutes or hours, the butterflies start showing up.
Butterflies love the sun, so they are going to move into the light and be brightly lit. So I don’t have to worry much about the lighting. But make sure the sunlight is falling directly on your butterfly. Side lighting will usually result in a harsh shadow across the butterfly’s wings, and backlighting may give you dark shadows. So, wait until the butterfly moves to a position where it’s front-lit by the sun. Make sure you don’t cast a shadow on the butterflies because they’ll usually fly away.
Make sure you focus on the eye of the butterfly and keep it super sharp. The wings may fall off focus a little bit, but according to me, that’s okay as long as the butterfly’s eye is in focus. In other shots you may focus on the wings but the eyes matter the most I guess. Don’t directly focus at 300mm. Initially focus at 70mm or 100mm, then gradually increase your focal length.
If the butterflies have some mercy on you and sit still in one place, try out different compositions. Take a wide shot with the environment, then move in closer, and go for tighter frames. The rule of thirds works best; divide your frame in a 3×3 grid and place your butterfly along the lines or at the intersecting points of these lines.
Don’t just take one shot and think you’ve got it. Try to take as many photos as you can of these butterflies in as many angles and compositions as you can. Try to add some foreground with a few leaves or flowers. But guys please don’t try to catch or touch the butterflies in any way just for a shot, please let them be free.
10. HAVE FUN
Butterfly photography may take time and patience, but it sure is worth it. It feels so good to go back home and view all those beautiful butterfly images. Even if they turn out to be blurry or out of focus, they are so cute and pretty. It makes my day.
When photographing butterflies, patience is very important. As with all of nature’s creatures, butterflies cannot be forced to pose for you or wait for you, so you have to wait for the right moment. So be observant and keep your camera equipment ready at all times. I hope you find these tips to be useful guys. Do let me know in the comments. Thank you 🙂
Also read – A Morning With Butterflies
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