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Photographing Butterflies

Techniques > Photographing Butterflies

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Category: Animals / Wildlife

Butterfly Photography - Here we have a few tips to aid you in your pursuit of the perfect butterfly image.

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Cabbage White Butterfly
Photo by Peter Bargh.

Where To Go? 

Meadows with wild flowers growing in abundance are great places for photographing butterflies but please don't trespass on other people's property. You could also visit one of the many nature reserves or public gardens found right across the UK.

If you can't get out and about to photograph butterflies it's worth growing plants in your garden or window boxes etc. that will attract butterflies. These include Aubrieta, Buddleia, Primrose, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Lilac, Marigold, Phlox, Mint, and Thyme. Get to know which plants caterpillars feed upon, too, as you can plant them in your garden or look out for them on your travels.

Buy A Guide

A butterfly guide book can be very useful in identifying the species whilst out in the field. Occasionally, you may come across a species which is rare or not even native to the UK, it’s handy to know if you have spotted a rare species or even one in decline so you can report your sighting. Of course you can also use the internet once back home for your research. 

Time Of Day

The best time of day to maximise your chances of photographing butterflies will be early morning or in the evening as they don't move around as quickly. At these times you may even be lucky enough to see one emerging or covered in dew which can make for that extra special photograph. 

Try to stand / approach them so your shadow doesn't cover them as they'll tend to fly off in search of a sunnier spot. 

If you start out early and temperatures are relatively cool then you may get lucky and find a few sleeping. By approaching slowly and quietly you may be able to move distracting stems etc. out of the way without disturbing your subject, to help with a more pleasing composition. Do take care not to destroy their habitat as many species are declining in numbers.

Shutter Speeds & Set-Up

Another way to increase your chances of capturing a good shot is by switching to burst mode / continuous shooting. By doing so your camera will rapidly take a series of shots.

Instead of chasing a butterfly around your garden it can be easier to find a plant you know they like and set up near-by. Then you just have to wait patiently for your subject to land on the part of the plant you're framed up on. It can be a little hit and miss and you will, more than likely, end up waiting a while but on a warm summer's day, having to sit out in your garden isn't really a bad way to pass a few hours!

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