The Challenge Of Photographing Monarch Butterflies

The Challenge Of Photographing Monarch Butterflies

Photographing monarch butterflies, well any butterfly for that matter, can be a difficult endeavor. Don’t get me wrong, they are easy to find and snap pictures of but to get a truly outstanding photograph and not just a snap shot of a monarch butterfly takes time and patience. I have found getting the side view of a monarch butterfly with its wings in the upward position is quite a bit easier than getting one with its wings in the open position as shown in this image.

This position is the one I prefer. It shows the beautiful colors and markings of the monarch butterfly but it can be tricky at times and can surely test one patience. From my experience butterflies typically nectar with their wings closed and only occasionally open them as they feed. To further complicate things I love having a very smooth, soft toned background which means I have to blur as much of it as I can with a very shallow depth of field. This can lead to challenges in getting the entire butterfly in focus. As you can see in this image, even though I do love it, I failed in getting a totally sharp image of the monarch due to a very shallow depth of field.

Personally I don’t think it detracts from the overall image as the body and head of the butterfly are sharp and just the outer wings are slightly distorted due to the limited depth of field. I can live with this actually. I always try to get the entire butterfly in focus but not knowing if it is going to turn one way or the other or open its wings it is nearly impossible to determine a camera setting for all possibilities and also throwing a very smooth background at the same time.

This is part of the reason I love photographing monarch butterflies. I love the challenge of getting a perfect image with the butterfly totally sharp and clean with a super smooth background. I rarely get the perfect image but I do get a lot of great images I think are wall hangers despite some small things I would like to change if I could re-photograph them.

Well, it’s mid September and even though I am still seeing a few monarch butterflies they are starting to become less and less common. I guess that means fall is on its way and monarchs might be headed south for the winter. If you want to sharpen your photography skills get outdoors and find a monarch butterfly to photograph. Getting a great image of a monarch is both rewarding and challenging at the same time but that is the great thing about photography, there is always something to learn and challenge us.

Leave a Reply