I was looking this morning for a name of a butterfly and I came across this article on tips for finding and shooting better butterfly pictures.
I’d add to the article with my own particular tips:
First try taking the camera out of auto mode and put it in manual mode:
- (1) Try using your cameras “APERTURE” or Manual Modes settings to set the Depth of Field (DOF). A shollow DOF will blur out busy garden backgrounds and focus on the particular butterfly. A shallow or narrow depth of field is obtained by opening up your camera’s aperture to between F2 and F5. This will effectively sharpen only the butterfly and blur out the background. A nice effect in shooting butterflies or flowers in general. (click image to see a larger version).
- (2) Other tricks, try using a fast shutter speed above 800 to stop the wing action when catching one flying in.
Note: You may have to compensate by adjusting your ISO setting as well if you want to both narrow your depth of field and up your shutter speed at the same time. Like in the picture above. If you’re in manual mode you would set the Aperture and the Shutter speed first then use the camera’s light meter along with the ISO setting to find the setting that would allow the proper amount of light. Do all this before you start shooting the butterflies in that location as you’ll want not to think too much about the lighting when you’re actually shooting.
- (3) If there are other objects or flowers in front of the butterfly and you want to make sure the butterfly only is in focus and not only the neighboring grass or flower, then also manually focus the lens (easier in a DSLR camera, although some point and shoot cameras allow you to do this as well). If left in the auto focus mode then the camera might be tricked into focusing on the 1st object it comes to and not the butterfly. This is where manual focusing comes in handy. In the picture below if I had left this in auto focus then the grass would of been in focus and I would of missed the butterflies tongue whipping out..
- (4) If butterflies don’t visit the area of the country you are in, try looking for a local Butterfly house. Many arboretums will have them, or sponsor them to come in for special shows. It’s a great place to see species that don’t normally come to your area.