Butterfly Photography for Beginners

Butterfly Photography for Beginners

Butterfly Photography for beginners is the title and today I was the beginner at the Butterfly House near Sheffield, Yorkshire, England. https://www.butterflyhouse.co.uk

Every now and then I like going out of my landscape photography comfort zone and today was one of those days. I fancied getting hot and sweaty in the tropical house and trying my hand at some butterfly photography.

On arrival in the carpark, there were 4 coach loads of small children filing out of their coach in lines all with yellow high visibility vests on, photographing butterflies over! Not at all, I enjoyed watching the small children’s faces as much as photographing the butterflies, bless them. There was much outside to do and see so at times I almost had the butterfly house to myself and when a school party did come through they were all very good and loved seeing the birds and butterflies fly around their heads, bless! The teachers kept apologising when they noticed the camera in my hand but no need at all, the children’s faces were more interesting than the wildlife.

Butterfly Photography for Beginners

Here is what I learned about butterfly photography, I hope it helps some of you, I am still very much learning myself so we are all beginners together.

  1.  If you have image stabilization on your lens, switch it on if you are hand holding the camera as I did. A tripod would be ideal but not always permitted or practical depending on where you are and how many people are around you.
  2. When you are at your chosen spot, take a look around first and notice which plants and flowers the butterflies like and are landing and feeding on, try not to go in shutters blazing even though that is a very tempting thing to do, chill, slow down and use your eyes.
  3. In photography light is everything, wait until the butterfly is front lit by the sun or indeed backlit. I didn’t necessarily do that but know for next time.
  4. Don’t be afraid to up the ISO a little to gain a faster shutter speed, my ISO varied depending on the shot from 200 to 1600 ISO – my shutter speed also varied between 1/60 sec and 1/250 sec, the glass house was well lit so I did not need to go sports fast, but don’t be afraid to do so especially if you are trying to catch butterflies in flight. Modern cameras are more than capable of taking these settings in their stride.
  5. By all mean have a walk around for the best spot but do not try chasing butterflies LOL, they are way faster and more agile than you, wait patiently for the subject to come to you in your chosen spot.
  6. Include the flower in your composition and avoid shooting butterflies with tattered and damaged wings.
  7. For still butterflies use single point focus and put the focus square on the head. For moving or fluttering butterflies continuous focus may be a better option.

Butterfly Photography for Beginners

Photography kit wise I travelled light today, I took the Fuji X-T2 and 55 to 200 – 3.5 to 4.6 lens (excellent!) – 2 spare 3rd party batteries (not needed) and a small lens cloth (not needed).

Oh, I had Lasagna, Chips and Peas (a strange combination that just worked!) in the cafe before coming home. Yum!

Butterfly Photography for Beginners

Butterfly Photography for Beginners

I have many other butterfly images but thought I would mix things up with a few other creatures of nature and beauty…

Butterfly Photography for Beginners

Butterfly Photography for Beginners

Butterfly Photography for Beginners

Thanks for reading, any questions don’t hesitate to ask below 🙂

What people talk 11 Comments

28 February, 2019 Chris

Excellent photos as always Tim. Glad you enjoyed the day out (and lasagna). It’s always rewarding to have a great day out and come home with pleasing pictures as well!

1 March, 2019 Tim

An enjoyable morning Chris, thank you 🙂

1 March, 2019 Esperanza Giménez

A whole macro photography lesson!
Some butterflies with transparent wings have impressed me because of their beauty!
I hope one day I can achieve something infinitely worse and I would be happy.
Greetings, my friend Tim!

1 March, 2019 Tim

Great English Esperanza, thank you!

I love standing 6 to 10 feet away and using a long lens for this type of shot, a long lens does not have to be expensive by the way any lens to 200 or 300mm is a long lens, mine was 55 – 300mm but not expensive relatively speaking. A long lens compresses perspective (makes the background look closer to the subject) and lets you get close without scaring the subject and getting in her/his face, lol.

I took many of the ones with transparent wings, aren’t they beautiful and unique!

Have a lovely weekend Esperanza and thank you again for your interesting and kind comments, dear friend.

1 March, 2019 Esperanza Giménez

LOL!! My English is perfect!
Tim, I also have a long lens … and a macro … that does not help much until now, and less with restless butterflies … apart from the fact that in my city there are not many …
Transparent wing wings are pure fantasy, like Tinkerbell 🙂
Have a great weekend, my friend!

2 March, 2019 Tim

Thanks will do 🙂

2 March, 2019 Marina Versaci

What beautiful pictures dear! And then all the explanations! Thanks dear. I send you a hug, with friendship

3 March, 2019 Tim

Hi Marina, lovely to hear from you, thank you, I enjoyed my week off work and taking a few new photos.

Early signs point towards a good year for Ferrari, fingers crossed, let’s hope so!

A hug back dear friend, thank you for dropping by.

3 March, 2019 Marina Versaci

Buona domenica caro Tim! Forza Ferrari:-))

17 June, 2020 Norman Raine

Thanks Tim, this is the 1st time i have been on your site, i am impressed. I also have the XT2 with the 55-200. I took my 1st butterfly shot yesterday and i am pleased with the results, do you happen to know how to set up the XT2 to get the right settings to shoot the butterflies. I dont know what to best settings are i mainly shoot landscapes. Could you let me know how to set my XT2 up, as i have only used manual focus up to now. Many thanks, Norman Raine

18 June, 2020 Tim

Hi Norman, glad you like the site and always nice to talk to a fellow XT-2 shooter 🙂 The 55-200 is a lovely lens and goes up in price year on year instead of down.

I don’t mind answering any questions you have but your question covers a lot so I will give a basic answer and go into more detail should you ask me more question later if that’s OK?

Manual focus is great but as you know butterflies can be quick so it may be better to look on the front of the X-T2 and click the little dial reading M.C.S round to S (single-point auto focus), clip on your 55-200 lens and make sure the IOS switch on the lens is set to ON (image stabilisation) and the switch above is set to the mark nearest the aperture circle as opposed to the red A.

You could set the ISO wheel to A (auto) but I prefer to have a little more control, on a sunny day ISO 200, but don’t be afraid to up the ISO for darker conditions, up to 1600 if necessary but I prefer a much lower number ideally. Under that dial switch to CH (continuous high) so you get a burst of shots rather than just 1 single shot. Better to have too many than miss focus if the butterfly moves. Aperture wise I shot those images in ‘A’ (the camera finds a shutter speed for you) under the aperture ring I had metering mode as the most filled in box next to the blank box (pattern takes a reading from all over the frame, giving equal weighting to all areas.) Most of my images are taken in this metering mode landscape or otherwise.

After that, it’s just a matter of moving the little joystick where you want to focus square to be when you look through the lens and set the lens to a shallow depth of field, I think most my butterfly shots were taken using F/6.8 but go lower if you really want to blur out the background.

Apologies for being a little brief but a hard question to answer in detail, of course, feel free to ask more.

Thank you very much for your kind words, best regards – Tim

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