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Butterfly Photography Tips – Best Places to Photograph Butterflies

Photo by: MK

Butterflies are not mere insects; they are beautiful flowers that can fly; they are capable to appeal the soft corners of anyone; not just the fancy of any child. They are swift, silent and soft and add beauty to this world; the vital role they play in pollinating flowers and let them bear fruits and seeds is another thing. For photographers butterflies are ideal subjects; they sit gracefully on flower petals like professional models on the ramp.

A question lot of beginners ask is “which are the best places to photograph butterflies?” Well the right answer is everywhere; only thing needed is to ‘learn to see’ butterflies; one can find them anywhere from barren deserts to tropical evergreen forests, beaches to the high mountains, east to west and north to south.

Although butterflies are found everywhere, photographing them could be tricky. Chasing one odd butterfly may not yield the results you want. For capturing quality images out of these beauties; first it is better to have some knowledge of their favorite locations where they frequent; visit those sites when you are hunting for good subjects.

Best Places to Photograph Butterflies

Photo by: jiunn kang too

1. Your Home Garden

Your own garden is undoubtedly the number one place to shoot butterflies; your garden offers many advantages; firstly you can keep watch most of the times round the year. Make it more ambient by growing different nectar / host plants. Set up a mud- puddling site for them to ‘enjoy’. A fruit tray to place over-ripe fruits is a good attraction for certain butterfly species; artificial food sources like sugar solution also are effective tidbits especially in seasons when nectar is scarce.

While photographing in home garden, you have all the time in the world to set up backgrounds, reflectors, diffusers and what not, always keep the camera close at hand. You can also try photographing entire life cycle of butterflies from egg to larvae to pupa to adult.

butterfly photography tips
Photo by: Hafiz Issaadeen

An easy and sweet way to become a naturalist is to keep a diary and note down the number and details of species that frequent your garden along with the time they arrive, flowers they feed, plants where they lay eggs etc. Keeping on doing it makes you halfway to be a naturalist. Once you know their lifestyle; photographing them is relatively easy, expertise in the subject will be reflected in your photographs making them class.

One thing to note is; don’t ignore some species because it’s all too common in your locality and you find it often. What might be ordinary and commonplace in one location will be exotic and rare in another. Best strategy is to become and expert and specialize on photographing butterflies in your region.

2. Butterfly Gardens

Recently the concept of rearing butterfly gardens has become popular; they are built to attract butterflies and getting them settled by setting up ideal living environment for them. These include growing nectar plants for adult butterflies, host plants for the larvae to feed on, offering protection from wind etc.

tips for photographing butterflies
Photo by: John Flannery

Recently many schools have started setting up butterfly gardens as a way of teaching children the importance of conservation. Butterflies that inhabits in butterfly- gardens get accustomed to human presence and hence are not easily scared that makes them easier to shoot.

3. Roadway and Other Small Gardens

butterfly photography how to
Photo by: John Flannery

Small gardens set up at picnic spots, at some restaurants, gas stations, hotels and resorts etc. are all places where you have a good chance of finding many butterflies.

4. Butterfly Houses, Vivarium, or Aviaries

In recent years there has been a surge in the number of butterfly houses, they come in all shapes and sizes; some are small while some others are huge. These houses allow a safe environment for the butterflies either in an open or closed facility.

how to photograph butterflies
Photo by: John Flannery

Naturalists are divided in their opinion about photographing butterflies in captivity, some say butterflies should only be photographed in the wild in their natural environment while some others opine that it is perfectly fine to photograph them in captivity.

Ideally they are better photographed in the wild. But for those who cannot afford the time or expense to travel; photographing them in butterfly houses could be a first step to an ‘addictive hobby’ that can lead to an increased level of awareness about the species; their habitat and conservation.

5. Finding Butterflies In the Wild

Butterflies can be found just about anywhere from sea shores to high mountains, deserts to rain forests, grass lands to city parks. But photographing butterflies in the wild is much more difficult than photographing them in gardens or other places; being not accustomed to human presence they could be easily scared.

Chances are they’ll fly off as you approach them not giving you enough time to capture a shot. But this is a good practice ground, keep on trying and you’ll get good at it. Maintain a guide book about butterflies of the locality; it will help you identify the one’s you see. Joining a butterfly club or online discussion group will be great.

butterfly photography tutorial
Photo by: Andrea

These clubs frequently conduct study tours in groups to observe butterflies, and newer members get the advantage of learning from more experienced people in the field. Online groups are excellent sources for information on butterflies, interesting finds, and more.

Photographing butterflies in the wild is tough; here are some specific hints on areas where there are increased chances of finding butterflies.

a. Borders

These are the borders of different types of habitats, for example the area where a meadow borders woods. Such places offer food sources and shelter for both forest dwelling species and the ones that prefer clearings. So you have increased chances of finding butterflies there.

b. Clearings in the Woods

photographing butterflies
Photo by: Louise Docker

Clearing in otherwise dense woods is a likely spot where you could find many butterflies. The sunshine and small herbs and flowers make such openings a favorite place for butterflies.

c. Islands / Sholas

The opposite of Openings, a shady grove in a meadow, like the shola forests is a good place to look for butterflies. They prefer roosting in such locations, similarly where there are cluster of flowers in a meadow you’ll always find many butterflies.

d. Hilltops

Generally hill tops does not have tall trees, and instead feature an opening with small shrubs and grasses, the rocks also are ideal setting for basking as butterflies will get heat from both sunshine and also heat radiated from the rocks below.

e. Next to Water

mud puddling butterflies
Photo by: Ajith

You’ll find many butterflies mud- puddling along the edges of a stream or lake.

f. Utility lines / Fire Lines

The area under utility lines is kept cleared and so are the fire lines in forests. These cleared areas provide a chance for sunshine to reach the ground also allow small bushes and flowers to grow making them ideal places to find butterflies.

g. Country, Dirt Roads and Forest Trails

You have increased chances of finding butterflies on the bushes bordering country roads or forest trails, they are just like clearings that we mentioned of.

butterfly photography
Photo by: Ajith

In the attempt of getting shots take utmost care to see no harm is done to these wonderful creatures; they are not like mosquitoes or lice; butterflies do no harm to anything or anyone; they are the only agents that help flowers to bear fruits and offer a feast to the eyes of all that are good; please remember the classic in which ‘Atticus Finch’ says to his daughter “it is a sin to kill a mocking bird”; killing a butterfly is equally a sin.  Let a thousand flowers bloom and all of them bear fruits; and let all the butterflies simply live, feed and fly!!! 
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