Nature photography at home: Butterflies and insects
As the most abundant group of species on the planet, your garden is sure to contain myriad insects that will provide plenty of photographic fodder
What’s the approach?
Butterflies are the most exuberant and showy insects in the garden, with a range of species on the wing during the summer and early autumn months.
Planting suitable flowers will encourage a wider range of species, as well as provide a colourful background for your images.
Moths are often regarded as the poor relation to butterflies, but make equally attractive subjects.
For guaranteed success use a moth trap – a white sheet and a bright lamp will suffice – to attract them, and then, with careful handling, place them on a suitable ‘perch’ for photography.
Dragonflies, bees, flies, beetles, spiders and a plethora of other creepy crawlies all make terrific subjects, so start grubbing around in your borders to see what you can turn up.
When’s the best time of day?
The cool of early morning is a good time to photograph butterflies and dragonflies, because they will be resting.
As it warms up they become active, which makes them easier to spot, but more difficult to get close to.
What gear do I need?
For insect photography a macro lens is indispensable, but if you don’t own one then take the less expensive option of investing in some extension tubes that fit between the lens and your camera to facilitate closer focusing, and therefore greater magnification.
Use a tripod if possible, to help with accurate focusing and composition.
What’s the best lighting?
Close-up photography is often best in bright overcast conditions, because it provides a soft, low-contrast light. Early morning and late evening sun provides an attractive warm light, which is equally effective as front or backlighting.
SEE MORE: Free macro photography cheat sheet
What settings should I use?
Because depth of field is an important factor when it comes to close-up photography, you’ll need to consider which aperture setting to use.
It can often be somewhat of a compromise between subject sharpness and a diffused background.
If you use a small aperture then more of the subject will be in sharp focus, but the downside is that the background will also become more clearly defined and this may be distracting.
If possible, shoot the same picture using a range of aperture settings from f/5.6 to f/16, and then evaluate the results later to see which works best.
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