Tips on Photographing Butterflies

Butterflies are pretty creatures that make naturally attractive subjects. With their gorgeous wings and dainty bodies, it is easy to see why butterfly photos are extremely popular, probably almost as much as sunset shots. Yet, it can be a bit of a challenge to capture butterflies since they are shy and can quickly flit away when surprised.

Here are some easy and effective ways to capture great butterfly photos:

Use composition techniques – no matter how pretty the butterfly is, you still need to mind the basics of composition if you want quality shots. Use everything in your arsenal, from Rule of Thirds to perspective. Make use of repeating patterns, lines and colors, and always keep your background free from distraction. A shallow depth of field often does the trick to separate the butterfly from a busy background such as a bunch of flowers.

Photo by Spettacolopuro

Be slow to approach but quick to shoot – if you spot a butterfly that you want to shoot, don’t scare it away by rushing in your excitement. Instead, slowly go closer until you can get a decent focus on it, and quickly shoot before it has the chance to fly away. Use your camera’s burst feature if it has one. This will allow you to capture many shots in the blink of an eye.

Shoot an uncommon butterfly angle – in many butterfly photos, these creatures are often taken with their wings spread wide or in profile as they cling to a flower or leaf. Make your photo more unique by shooting the butterfly at a different angle, such as head on while flying as seen in this photo below:

Photo by Flavio (back for a while…)

Take note of where the light is coming from – frontal lighting can show the fine detail of the butterfly, such as its iridescence; side lighting may cause shadows that you will want to avoid; and backlighting (as with the photo below) can make the wings’ colors appear more vibrant. Of course, results may vary depending on the light’s intensity, the butterfly’s position, etc. Observe how the light hits the butterfly at that particular time and decide how best to shoot it in relation to the light.

Photo by Randy Son of Robert

Visit a butterfly garden or flower field – butterflies might grace your garden time to time and sometimes, they are just nowhere to be found. If you want better chances of them being around when you want to shoot, you can visit a butterfly garden or a local field with lots of flowers. You can then have the opportunity to shoot varieties of butterflies, and most probably more than just one at a time.

Photo by YIM Hafiz

Get closer – most butterflies are small and you would need to get close if you want to capture the fine details of their bodies, such as their face and spindly legs. Usually, they won’t mind too much if you get close while they are busy sucking the nectar of flowers since they are preoccupied. Again, just don’t make any sudden movements that can alarm them into making a quick escape.

Photo by loco’s photos

Shoot during cooler times in the day – butterflies don’t move around much when the weather is cold, so if you want them to stay put while you take pictures, try shooting during early morning or late afternoon.

For more butterfly photo inspiration, check this post about 20 Gorgeous Butterfly Photos.

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