Butterflies are fascinating to photograph. If you don’t know where to start in butterfly photography, we’ll teach you a few useful tips.
Where to Find Butterflies
The secret to finding butterflies is to hunt down plants that caterpillars feed on. To start, go online and find out the variety of species you can find in your area. Study the different plants that attract them.
Drive around your neighbourhood and look for those plants that attract butterflies. Make several visits and observe the insect activity in your area. If you spot butterflies there all the time, then it’s an excellent place to shoot.
The seasons also play a significant role in finding these colourful creatures. The best time to take great pictures of butterflies is during summer and spring. Come fall and winter, you’ll find less of them flying around. So always plan in advance, or you’ll have to wait a long time before you see them again.
Use a Macro or Telephoto Lens to Get Butterfly Photography Details
Taking butterfly pictures with an ordinary kit lens can be difficult. Since it can’t focus at close distances, you’ll end up with blurry photos all the time. To avoid frustration, use a macro lens instead.
Macro lenses allow you to take extreme close-ups of small objects. The best options for butterfly photography are between 100mm to 200mm. These let you shoot macro photography far enough not to disturb cautious insects.
Yet, macro lenses can also be expensive. If you’re on a budget, you can try using attachments that convert any ordinary glass into a macro lens. The most common ones are reversing rings, extension tubes, and bellows. These add-ons cost less than $50 in most cases and produce amazing results.
To use bellows and extension tubes, all you have to do is attach them to the camera then snap on the lens onto them. A reversing ring works almost the same way. The only difference is you’d need to connect your lens backwards to achieve magnification. The downside is that adding these accessories will disable your auto focus. Practise manual focus if you plan on using them.
So how about if you don’t have a macro lens or a macro attachment? Then, you should consider using your telephoto lens, instead. Zoom into your subject, and you have yourself the close-up shot that you need.
What Are the Best Settings for Butterfly Photography
Insect photography can be tricky. You don’t have control over your subjects. If you fumble around too much with your camera, you might scare the butterflies away.
First, use an ISO between 100 and 400. As much as possible, stick to 100 to avoid image noise. When you find yourself in the shade, you can bump up the value to 400. It’s high enough to compensate for the lack of light but low enough not to introduce distracting grain.
Now let’s move on to aperture size. Since you’re shooting macro photos, your background is going to be blurry no matter aperture you use. So you might as well avoid using values such as f/1.8 or f/2.
They will only make the depth of field even more narrow and give you a hard time focusing. Instead, select anything between f/8 and f/22. The deep DOF they produce would help you keep your subject sharp.
Finally, let’s talk about shutter speed. Since insects move fast, you shouldn’t go any lower than 1/180th of a second. If you do not have a fast shutter speed, your butterfly will end up blurry in your photo. If you want to make sure the flapping butterfly wings look crisp, then shoot from 1/500th or higher.