The Beginner's Guide to Photographing Butterflies

20 March 2017
 Categories: , Blog

If you're just getting your feet wet in the photography world, you may have been advised to avoid snapping tricky subjects like butterflies. Though beautiful, these winged insects are quick, always on the move, and difficult to capture on camera. Despite this, this only way to learn is to practice, so don't let anyone put you off attempting butterfly photography early in your journey. Instead, follow these 3 tips to improve your photos.

Make Sunlight Your Friend

Many wildlife photographers prefer to avoid using flash to ensure a natural look to their photos. This means that sunlight will be your best friend and primary tool in capturing a good photo of a butterfly. First, avoid choosing a day that's too overcast. You'll want even sunlight to get the best pictures. That considered, remember that butterflies are less active in cold weather. Avoiding a particularly hot day will give you more time to get the right shot. Then, make sure you position yourself so you're not casting a shadow over the place you want to photograph. Butterflies prefer sunlight, so they won't stay in the shade for long. Finally, when you snap the photo itself, make sure the sunlight is in front of the butterfly rather than behind for the brightest, most colour-accurate shot.

Let Them Come to You

It can be tempting to chase butterflies across a park in order to find one that will stay still, but these delicate insects are easily scared by moving humans. Instead of hunting for butterflies, let them come to you. Position yourself in one place at a time, staying at one flower until a butterfly shows up. They won't be scared of you if you're waiting patiently and still. This also allows you to use a tripod to help you keep your camera steady and get the best snaps. 

Adjust Your Shutter

Getting a photo of a butterfly requires speed. They often stay on a flower for moments at a time, so your window of opportunity is very small. If your shutter is too slow, you could end up with a blurry photo of a butterfly springing from its resting place. You can adjust your shutter speed in your camera settings. While 1/250s (4 milliseconds) is an adequate setting for slow-moving subjects, 1/2000s (0.5 milliseconds) is better for freezing a fast subject like a butterfly in motion.

Remember that the photography itself is only half the battle. Equipment is just as important. Consider investing in high-quality camera batteries before going out to snap butterflies. Getting a good shot of these flighty creatures can take hours; the last thing you want is to get into the perfect position just moments before your battery dies.