Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Quick Tips for Photographing Butterflies & Dragonflies

Lately there have been a number of butterfly and dragonfly photos on the various photography pages I follow. And these insects are certainly abundant in the spring and summer. After spending a couple of days recently chasing “dragons,” I thought you might like a few useful tips based on my own experiences.

1. Practice patience! This is the first key to successfully photographing flying, flitting insects. They eventually land on branches or rails, and wait for you to catch them. But it takes time and persistence.
monarch butterfly resting on red and yellow butterfly milkweed plant
Monarch Butterfly on Milkweed

2. Use camera settings to isolate your subject, bringing it into focus, and to blur the background. For the images here I used an aperture of f/5.6, which creates a shallow depth of field and the soft background.

3. In order to keep disturbance to a minimum and remain outside of the “circle of fear,” I have been shooting with a telephoto lens zoomed to around 150-200mm. This keeps me at a distance, but brings in the details of wings and bodies.

4.  These are fast little creatures. In order to avoid blur from their constant motion, use a fast shutter speed. I’ve been using manual mode for the insect photography, setting my shutter speed to about 1/320 seconds for correct exposure and stopping the motion.

blue pond skimmer dragonfly
Blue Dragons
5. Auto-focus can be challenging when shooting butterflies and dragonflies. Depending upon where you’re positioned, there may be insufficient contrast between the background and the subject, making auto-focus less effective. I get some of my best shots using manual focus.

I’d love to hear your tips on photographing butterflies and dragonflies.

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