Butterfly Photography Tips
Spring and summer usually bring out butterflies, and with the widespread use of digital cameras, butterfly photographers.
A quick tour of relevant internet sites easily shows that all butterfly pictures are not created equal. Some butterfly pictures look stunning while others look as if they represent stunned butterflies.
If your butterfly pictures more often than not fit into the latter category, three simple tips might be all that is needed to improve your butterfly photography skills.
Tip One - Finding Butterflies: One key to successful butterfly photography involves finding a wide array of butterfly species as photographic subjects. After all, taking hundreds of pictures of the two butterfly species that fly around the yard equals boring photography.
Butterflies live in a variety of habitats, from back yard gardens to lower elevation meadows to higher elevation forests. Finding prime butterfly habitat can be as easy as consulting with local insect enthusiasts or performing a search for butterfly hot spots in your region.
Tip Two - Understanding Butterfly Behavior: Once in butterfly territory, finding butterflies to photograph represents the next challenge. Close observation of the subjects often leads to the conclusion that some butterflies, primarily those that tend to sit and nectar on flowers, are easy to photograph. Other species never seem to settle for a picture.
This difference in butterfly movement often gets described as the percher versus patroller phenomena. Some butterfly families, the Lycaenidae (blues, coppers and hairstreaks), for example, are typically perchers. Their species tend to fly short distances and then either perch on flowers or damp ground to nectar. Many swallowtail species, on the other hand, are called patrollers, a term used to describe the male behavior of flying around a specific territory throughout the day in search of a mate.
Photographing perchers can often be accomplished throughout the day. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to find patrollers at rest or nectaring.
Tip Three - Technical Issues: Nothing improves a butterfly picture more than good light. Keeping the sun at your back, and on the butterfly, is the ideal butterfly photography situation. In all possible cases, avoid taking pictures in the shade, because the performance of most digital cameras on the market drops in low light situations.
Using the camera's macro setting and zoom lens to photograph a butterfly from afar is one of the most popular ways to get a first picture. Most butterfly species are not very skittish around cameras. In many cases slowly approaching a butterfly and getting a close up picture, without using the zoom lens, will produce a picture with sharper colors and improved details.
When using a macro setting in bright sun situations, adjusting the exposure setting to a negative number (-1 on many cameras) helps produce better color. Also, when approaching a butterfly, try not to allow your shadow to move over it, as shadows occasionally disturb nectaring butterflies.
The growing size of camera memory cards makes it easy to take and store ten or more pictures of any one species. Taking multiple pictures allows you the luxury of reviewing them and choosing the best picture for each species. A good rule of thumb for photography practice starts by taking ten pictures, keeping the best and deleting the other nine.
Following these simple tips will not only expand the number of butterfly species in your butterfly album, they will also help add a bit of sparkle to the pictures.
© 2009. Patricia A. Michaels