I think that there are enough of us out here that take pictures of Butterflies that we can start a thread just for Butterflies and moths.
Be sure to ask for critique or help with identification.
This is my 2nd summer photographing butterflies. (2016).
Below will be some tips on identification as well as how to capture a good image of a butterfly or moth.
If possible, post the under wing and the top of the wing.
If possible, post the identification and location (state/providence and country etc ) of the butterfly or moth. If you don't know, then just post for fun.
*How to distinguish between a month and a butterfly:
A moth's antennae are feathery or saw-edged.
A butterflies antennae have a small ball at he end. (almost all of them)
Tips for capturing an image of a butterfly: This info may not be 100% accurate, but is close and what works for me.
*Time of day.
Butterflies like their body temperature to be at least 80F or 26C to be most active.
You will see more butterflies on bright sunny days then cool overcast days.
Normally a good time to find them out and about is from 10:am to about 3:pm. At least in my area, Montana USA 5,000+ feet elevation.
Butterflies will not stay still for long in windy conditions, a calm day is preferred.
*Camera lenses and focal length:
A medium to long focal length is ideal. I use my 70-200mm. A kit 50-250mm should be ideal.
If you catch the butterflies early in the day before they are active, you may be able to get by with a macro lens.This all depends on the individual butterfly.
For very active butterflies that you can not get close to, use a teleconverter for that additional reach. I use my 1.4x Kenco tc.
For butterflies that are not as active, use a macro extension tube. I find that 9-13mm is ideal. This helps you fill the frame with the butterfly and avoid cropping. I paid $15 for mine from Ebay.
Aperture priority with center weight average metering is ideal. I also use the center focus point or center multi focus points.
Use F/8 if the butterfly is the size of a USD quarter or smaller. Use F/11 if they are larger then a USD quarter. This ensures that both antennae are in focus.
Aperture is subjective, a side view with their wings closed can always look nice at F/2.8.
ISO 100-400 is ideal. Be sure to keep your shutter speed high enough to avoid motion blur.
If the butterfly is in the direct sunlight, use -1/3 stop exposure compensation. This will give you better more saturated colors.
If the butterfly is in the shade, you may have to use about +1/3 exposure compensation or more.I prefer direct sunlight shots.
WB set to cloudy is ideal, even if in direct sunlight.
A flash or ring light can often wash out the colors on a butterfly.
Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America by Jim P. Brock is one of the better identification books that i have found.
Here is a link to help you ID: http://gardenswithwings.com/identify-butterflies.html
Setting your camera to slow burst mode may help if you are having sharp/detail issues. Sometimes your camera will jerk or your body will sway when hitting the cameras trigger for the first time.
Wear a hat so that you can see through the viewfinder during the bright days.
Shoot in RAW so that you can bring back the highlights or shadows as needed.
Be sure to use the lens hood. Sun flair will soften or add a haze to the image.
Butterflies are very sensitive to shadows, motion and movement. Walk slowly and look around, don't just be focused on the first butterfly that you see.
If you spook a butterfly, stay put and they will usually return to about the same spot with in a couple of minutes.
Solid green/blue (foliage and sky) backgrounds tend to show more ISO noise then multi colored backgrounds.
If you are getting soft focus or a slight blur. Check to see that your shutter speed is high enough for your focal length.
*This guide can be subjective. You may always shoot at F/2.8 for a creative shot or you may always use your macro lens. Most of the settings above are listed to help you get an image like you would find in an identification book, with all of the butterfly in focus, filling the frame.
*Life-span of a butterfly
Most live either 2-3 months of 3-4 months.
You will see different butterflies at different times of the year, so be sure to go out every couple of weeks and you may find different varieties in the same locations.
Later in the year, butterflies will be rougher looking and may show damage from birds.
*Fun fact: the Montana state butterfly "the Mourning Cloak" can hibernate and can often be found while there is still snow on the ground.
A special thanks to my friend CS for teaching me how to take pictures of butterflies.