Professional Photographer to the Rescue: close-up photography tips you can trust

Professional Photographer to the Rescue: close-up photography

Final tips from our professional photographer

Final tips from our professional photographer: choose the right background

Don’t forget about your background
This Greta oto, or Glasswing butterfly, was a really tricky subject because of its transparent wings. Heather explained that getting the background right would be especially important.

She reminded Julie to get the camera parallel with the butterfly’s wings, to make the most of the depth of field, but also to look for a subdued, complementary background that was further away so would be nicely defocused.

Julie had to stand on tiptoe for this shot, which made it tricky to keep the butterfly in focus, even with a monopod. Heather’s advice was to check the sharpness of every shot you’ve taken, and to stay with your subject until you’ve got the picture just right.

Final tips from our professional photographer: shoot from the side when wings are closed

Shoot from the side when wings are closed
If a butterfly has closed wings, shoot it from the side and go in close to capture the patterns. Remember – you need to keep the camera parallel with the wings, too, so get on the same level as the butterfly.

If it’s on the ground, you’ll need to lie down! That might not be comfortable, but it’s what you need to do to make sure the wings look sharp. It makes it easier to keep the camera steady, too.

Final tips from our professional photographer: shoot from overhead when the wings are open

Shoot directly overhead when wings are open
Heather thought Julie’s first attempt was good, but that she could get closer still and fill the frame with this Papilio thoas, or King Swallowtail, that was resting on the path leading through the butterfly house. It was still enough for Julie to try shooting it at lots of different angles.

Final tips from our professional photographer: shoot overhead

Heather explained that when butterflies have their wings open you should get directly overhead, so that the back of the camera is parallel with the wings.

This means they stay sharp from edge to edge, even with the limited depth of field available. For her first attempt Julie positioned the butterfly horizontally across the frame, but Heather encouraged her to angle the camera to produce a more dynamic picture.

Vary the composition
Heather suggested taking shots of butterflies with their wings open, head-on, feeding and maybe even mating, and to take a mix of vertical and horizontal images

Fill the frame!
There’s no point taking a macro shot if there’s acres of space around the subject. Be aware that insects or frogs can crawl out of the frame if you approach too close too quickly. By using a longer zoom or macro lens you’ll gain a greater working distance.

Some bugs need softer light
Study the structure of the subject to work out the best way to light it. Shiny leaves or beetles will reflect light, so avoid direct flash. However, translucent wings or leaves will look more dramatic if they’re backlit.

Final tips from our professional photographer: use the sunlight white balance setting

Use the sunlight white balance setting
When you’re shooting in a butterfly house, use the Direct Sunlight White Balance setting, even on overcast days. It makes plants look fresher, and it’s really important to get the greens looking good. The Cloudy or Shade settings add a warmer tone that just doesn’t look right with this kind of subject.

PAGE 1: Meet our professional photographer and apprentice
PAGE 2: Close-up photography tips from our professional photographer
PAGE 3: Final tips from our professional photographer
PAGE 4: Our professional photographer’s recommended gear
PAGE 5: Shot of the Day

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