Photographing Butterflies

posted on 6th of february, 2008

I get a lot of people asking me how I manage to get the butterflies to sit still or to stay on a particular flower. I do have a couple of tips and look for more to share.

Time of Day - As with most photography, early morning has not only the best light, but often lower tempratures. Cooler weather has the butterflies sitting still longer trying to capture the heat. They prefer sunlight.

Weather - Cooler weather as I said helps. Also, just after the rain is a good time. They like to let their wings and will leave them more open at this point.

Food Source - Find a stand of flowers that attracts the species you prefer. Spray them lightly with a sugar water solution. If the species you like prefers fruit like mango, spray with a mixture of water and that juice. Don't oversrpay. You'll ruin the flowers.

Patience - Most butterflies startle easily at first, but if they fly away from that perfect flower setup, be patient. A lot of times, they will fly off for a minute or so and then be right back. Keep your camera focused on the flower and when the butterfly lands, you'll be ready for the shot.

Position - Use common sense and position yourself initially in a spot that will not cast odd shadows as the sun moves. It's best if you can find a spot that will allow different levels. Standing above, sitting at eye level and then if possible where you can lie down and get a shot from below.

Background - Prepare your stand of flowers ahead of time. Remove any distractions like weeds or debris. Use a soft brush to remove pollen or specks from the petals before you spray with any solution. Check from all angles to make sure there are no sticks or dead flowers in the background.

Props - If you decide to use something besides flowers, it may be more difficult to get them to land. In this case, try to make sure you have colors similar to the flowers they are attracted to. In butterfly nurseries, have your models wear pastel colors and again spray the shirt and hair with a flowery perfume or the sugar solution.

Similar tactics work for dragonflies although I don't think they care for sugar water. I hope this helps someone. It's what I usually do. Of course some places you can't do most of this, like a butterfly nursery. In those cases, just relax and do what is allowed. Most importantly, have fun. I find myself so amazed by butterflies I sometimes forget to shoot and that's okay too. LOL!

Comments (4)

Posted by Naturalphotos on March 07, 2008
Thanks for the great comments everyone.
Posted by Thefinalmiracle on February 19, 2008
A very useful blog. I will try it after the next monsoons in India. :)
Posted by Maigi on February 07, 2008
wow, thank you very much for your tips. I have tried to take a photo of butterflies many times and I know it needs a lot of patience. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
Posted by Niagaragirl on February 06, 2008
Great shot! Just beautiful. The last time I was in a butterfly habitat, I had a Hawaiian print shirt on, and they darned near swarmed me ;-)

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Photo credits: Diana Child.

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