Thursday, February 26, 2015

Photographing Butterflies

Each year I like to take a class or two to update my photography skills.  When I heard that there was a special class at The Butterfly House on capturing great shots of butterflies I was anxious to attend.  The class was held during the hours that the house was closed so that the photographers could use tripods and not disrupt the normal flow of guests.

The Butterfly House

On the day of the class it was a frigid 8 degrees outside.  The scene above is the frozen lake at the entrance to The Butterfly House.  I was looking forward to getting inside to the warm butterfly conservatory where the temperatures are kept in the 80's for the tropical butterflies.

Photography Tips

When the class started the instructor gathered us around for a few tips about photographing butterflies.  Before we entered the conservatory, he had us put a plastic bag over our camera lens and secure it with a rubber band.  This would help the camera become accustomed to the change in temperatures and prevent condensation on the lens.  We then entered the conservatory and gathered around for a few tips on photographing butterflies.
  • Use a tripod
  • Use a remote shutter release
  • Set you white balance at cloudy
  • Set your ISO at 400
  • Use Aperture priority and start with a 5.6 aperture
After the instructor gave us these tips we removed the bags from our cameras and we were ready to begin our photography. Capturing a good butterfly photo requires a lot of patience.  I walked the path of the conservatory looking for a butterfly that was sitting with it's wings open, in a spot where it wasn't hidden in the foliage and where the light was good for a photograph.  Now that is a tall order! 

Photographing Blue Morpho  Butterflies

There were a lot of Blue Morpho butterflies flying around but very few that were sitting still.  Here are a few photos I was able to get of these beautiful blue butterflies.
Blue Morpho butterfly

Blue Morpho butterfly

The first butterfly was perched on a bench and stayed there for the longest time.  I sat on a bench across from it and set up my tripod.  It stayed there while I shot a whole series of photos and then went to let some of the other classmates know about this shot.  In the second shot the butterfly was back in among the foliage and in the shadows.  Our instructor used a reflector to shine light on the butterfly and I was able to capture this shot.  I love the way it really shows all the lines on the butterfly. The photo below shows a Blue Morpho butterfly with its wings closed.


More Tips from our Instructor

  • Take your time finding the right shot
  • Take notice of the background....look past your subject to see what else will be in your photo
  • Shoot away from the light
  • Use reflectors to bring light in to dark areas
  • Don't expect every shot to be great...if you come away with just a couple good photos it will be a successful shoot.


Tropical Butterflies

The Butterfly House features more than 25 species of butterflies from around the world.  Here are a few of my other favorite shots from the photography class.  I especially like the second one with the transparent wings.

butterfly photo by mbgphoto

butterfly photo by mbgphoto

butterfly photo by mbgphoto

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Blue Morpho Butterfly
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Note: The author may receive a commission from purchases made using links found in this article. “As an Amazon Associate, Ebay (EPN) and/or Esty (Awin) Affiliate, I (we) earn from qualifying purchases.”


  1. Very lovely photos, Mary Beth. Butterflies are such beautiful models. Your class appears to have really taught you well to be able to capture this elusive beauty on camera. One question, what do you mean in tips to 'shoot away from the light'? Does that mean to have the light behind you? I'm still working on perfecting my photography skills. :-)

    1. Yes in The Butterfly House it is good to have the light behind you when you shoot.

  2. Love the Blue Morpho necklace! Lovely photos!

  3. What a fabulous opportunity! I would love to be able to sign up for classes that have those types of special hours just for photographers. Your butterfly photos are exceptionally beautiful, as always. Thank you for sharing you photos, as well as your photography expertise.

    1. You are welcome Cynthia. I appreciate your support as always.


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