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All About Photographing Butterflies

Pashminu | Photo Techniques | Published Jan 22, 2012

Camera:

Although any point and shoot camera can take decent pictures of landscape along with your friends and family portraits, for capturing good photographs of butterflies you will have to invest in a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera. An entry-level SLR camera will also suffice, it is the lens mounted on your camera that will make the difference. It is always better to use a SLR which has a field crop of 1.5 or 1.6, as compared to a full frame camera.

 

Lens:

The kit lens accompanying your camera is just no enough, due to the lack of zoom range. Average kit lens of 18mm-55mm is good for normal daily photography but even at its extended zoom end of 55mm, you will have to get really close to the butterfly to compose a good shot. But during butterfly photography, you just cannot get near physically as the butterfly will just fly away.

To circumvent this issue, you will require at least a standard zoom lens, with focal lengths longer than 55mm. Here are some of the common standard zoom lenses from the popular lenses manufacturers: Canon 55-250mm, 70-200mm, 70-300mm, 75-300mm, 90-300mm and from Nikon stable: Nikon 55-200mm, 70-200mm, 70-300mm. Comparative lenses are manufactured by other vendors like: Sigma, Tokina, Tamron etc.

In addition to the standard zoom lenses, serious hobbyists and professional choose from prime lenses for the ultimate results in quality. The long-range prime lenses from Canon & Nikon stable are: 200mm, 300mm, 400mm, 600mm and 800mm. In order to increase the zoom range, professionals attach tele-converter in-between the camera and the lens. The tele-converters have multiplier effect of 1.4x or 2.0x.

Mounted on a Canon / Nikon with field crop of 1.6 or 1.5 respectively, these prime lens delivery bang for bucks. Here is a simple calculation of effective focal length for Canon 600D, mounted with 400mm lens and 2x tele-converter: 400 x 2 x 1.6 = 1280mm! With that zoom range, you can be pretty much be assured to capture razor-sharp images of butterflies and birds.

Technique:

Photographing butterflies is more challenging than any other nature photography as it involves not just a good camera mounted with zoom lens but also require disciple, practice and patience.

Just armed with a camera and lenses will not help in capturing vivid and livid images of butterflies. You should know where and when to shoot them. Is there a butterfly park nearby to your locality? If yes, get the timings and find out at what time of the year it is best to shoot. Always take permission and there may be a small entry fee too.

In the wild or open spaces, you are free to experiment and depending on your budget, time and availability; you should be able to capture good photographs.

Stealth is one factor that must be foremost in your mind, while photographing butterflies. In most of the cases, you will have to sneak up to the butterfly and take your shot.