3 Macro Butterfly Photography Tips

Butterflies are majestic creatures.  They are a popular choice for photographers and one of my favorites.  I love the uniqueness of them, unlike other animals I photograph.  They have a mystery and curiosity about them while being something readily identifiable and familiar.  Capturing all of these qualities is one of our great challenges.

These creatures are awesome subjects to photograph.  They have countless patterns and shapes in their designs for one.  Secondly they are active giving you as many angles and perspectives to use as you can imagine.  Here are 3 tips for better butterfly macro photography.

Take Shots Of The Whole Butterfly

Images showing the butterflys’ entire wings, especially open, give you the full design and patterns of these creatures.  The wings open are the way most people think of and are used to seeing a butterfly.  The design elements in the wings can be like stained glass or a mosaic of tile.

Another reason to get this shot is to identify the species of butterfly later.  Even if you don’t want to use this shot in the end you will want to know what kind of butterfly it is.  Grab a field guide and match up the patterns to see what you have.

Show the full form and design of the butterfly.

Show the full form and design of the butterfly.

Isolate Elements In Your Subject

One of the greatest strengths of macro photography is the ability to bring small details to life.  Butterflies have many elements (details) making them a spectacular macro subject.  The complexity of their designs and anatomical structure will provide endless options to shoot.

Some things to look for are elements in the wings, including shapes, colors and textures.  The face or head always makes a interesting shot.  It takes a lot of patience and finding the right butterfly to let you get in close to get some tight head shots.  The body in conjunction with the head also makes for compelling photos.  Play around to see what catches your eye.

The tight framing of this shot revels interesting details about the subjects head.

The tight framing of this shot revels interesting details about the subjects head.

Isolating specific details of your subject allows the viewer to think about the subject differently.  In the end it will change the way a viewer thinks about a butterfly.

Isolating specific details of your subject allows the viewer to think about the subject differently. In the end it will change the way a viewer thinks about a butterfly.

Play With Different Angles

Come at your subject from as many different angles as possible.  With all of the design elements found in these creatures you will be amazed at the shots you find as you work your way around them.  Don’t rule anything out until you have tried it first.  There is nothing like opening up photos on your computer to find a shot you thought was worthless is actually incredible.

Another approach to try is putting things like branches, leaves and flowers between you and the subject in the frame.  This can add depth to your shot as well as interesting elements to your composition.  It also greatly increases the number of angles you have to work from.

The flower petals in the front of the image add depth and break up the composition of the butterflies wing slightly.

The flower petals in the front of the image add depth and break up the composition of the butterflies wing slightly.

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