Butterflies – Nature’s Flying Flowers
Nature’s most exquisite winged creature of delicate beauty, the butterfly has become a metaphor for transformation and hope. For many cultures it is a symbol of rebirth and resurrection and for us nature photographers, shooting butterflies represents one of the great joys and challenges of our beloved pastime.
Because butterflies only live for a few weeks, one needs to be ready to pursue and capture these beautiful creatures in early summer when they are most abundant. With such a short window of opportunity you’ll need to have your camera equipment specifically set up and at the ready.
To maximize your chances, you might investigate the nearest butterfly habitats which are often botanical gardens, arboretums, large flower gardens and even nurseries as they may provide you with the best opportunities to set up for this pleasurable experience. Of course patience is the key so give yourself some time and be ready to take plenty of clicks!
Tips for Shooting Butterflies
My first choice for lens would be a macro lens 1:1 ratio which is ideal for up close shots. Alternately you can use a diopter or an extension tube to create a macro effect. Another good option is to use a telephoto lens to zoom in and isolate your subject without disturbing it. Using a wider angle lens would help show context. You have many choices depending on budget and what artist vision you have.
Use a tripod if you have one but keep the head loose. Your tripod is still going to help you achieve the added stability you need in order to prevent camera shake and to maintain your focus point. When in a crowded place with lots of people a monopod can be a great choice as it will give you some stability.
Butterfly on a flower/leaf - Use a shallow Depth of Field ( f2, f4, f6 ) to create a blur background, be on burst mode, prefocus. Try shooting the butterfly so its wing is parallel to your lens—keeping all that fine detail on the same plane will guarantee that it is all tack sharp in the final image at these shallow depth of field. If not and its wings are spread out you might need a higher f-stop (f/8 or f11).
Set your Focus on the eyes of the butterfly if all possible, sharp eyes is a key element for a outstanding image. I find I get best results when I focus on a flower and wait for the butterfly to arrive, instead of changing them around.
Use portrait mode for the background to be blur, a low f stop if you have that option. Try shooting the butterfly so its wing is parallel to your lens—keeping all that fine detail on the same plane will guarantee that it is all tack sharp in the final image at these shallow depth of field.
Hold down on your shoot button to get multiple pictures a few seconds apart. This is also know as "burst" in the photography world.
Focus by taping on subject or an flower and wait for the butterfly to arrive.