Butterfly Photography

Viceroy. Photo courtesy of Michael McDowell.

Enjoy the challenge

In recent years, butterfly photography has become a very popular hobby. Taking pictures of butterflies offers a unique challenge that combines patience and persistence.

What photography equipment do you need?

Though inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras can yield good results, a 35mm camera with a telephoto lens generally works best. When going on location into a forest or field, I do not like to carry a lot of bulky gear in order to retain dexterity. I use a manual 35mm SLR camera and a 210mm telephoto zoom lens, but on occasion I use a 90mm macro lens for close details. I prefer natural lighting, but some butterfly photographers prefer to use a flash to reduce exposure times in low light.

Butterfly photographers generally use a tripod or monopod to help stabilize the camera during exposures.

Tips for butterfly photographers

Butterflies can be found virtually anywhere, but more diverse species will be found in natural locations like forests and grassy fields with wild flowers. Often it is best to pick out a location with potential, then wait for the butterflies to come to you. Keep a watchful eye, as that candidate photograph for National Geographic may only be present for several seconds!

Because butterflies are intensely aware of their surroundings, one must move as cautiously and slowly as possible to not startle them. It is also important during your approach not to cast your shadow over the butterfly as this will likely cause it to take flight.

A good way to practice technique without disturbing butterflies is to cut a picture of a butterfly out of a magazine, place it on a flower, and take pictures.

To find a binocular for locating butterflies, view our Staff Picks.

Article and photo contributed by Mike McDowell, an avid digiscoper, amateur naturalist, and Eagle Optics employee. Visit Mike's Birding and Digiscoping Blog.