Butterfly Photography - In Sharp Focus

Updated: Oct 12


Butterflies can be both a photographers dream and a photographers nightmare! It can go either way, depending on what you hope to achieve from the photo. Butterflies are actually easy to photograph, they tend to be very photogenic and have a penchant for sitting patiently on pretty flowers while you snap away.

A backlit Nettle-tree butterfly

I have written my blog mainly for users of DSLR or Mirrorless cameras but I appreciate that many people want to use their smartphone for butterfly photography, and I have no problem with that. Some of the hints and tips here can be applied to smartphones but a lot of them are very specific to photography with true cameras. Many people take photographs of butterflies and I'm sure that all have a technique, that they've developed over time, which will not be the same as mine. All I can say is that this blog contains methods and techniques that work for me and, hopefully, it will work for others wishing to improve their butterfly photography too.


My personal camera preference for photography is Nikon cameras and lenses. I mostly use either a Nikon D850 (FX-format) or a Nikon D7500 (DX-format) camera with Nikon 105mm Macro and Nikon 80-400mm telephoto lenses. I have considered the switch to a mirrorless camera, but the benefits don’t seem worth the cost at the moment. With butterflies, it doesn’t really matter if it’s a full-frame FX camera or a smaller frame DX camera. A lot of photographers assume that a full frame (35mm) sensor is much better than the smaller DX sensor, but this is wrong in many instances. For landscapes, portraits, weddings etc the FX sensor would be my preferred choice but, outside of that, the choice becomes much more blurred. For photographing small things, like butterflies, it is the lens that is important and not the size of the camera sensor. There is no point in having an expensive full-frame, 45mp camera and then cropping the image to the size of a smaller sensor, just to end up with exactly the same result. The following set of test images explain the difference between FX and DX camera sensors for butterfly photography, please excuse the subject, I couldn’t persuade a butterfly to pose for long enough!!