2. Approach slowly. Butterflies have small brains, but they can learn not to fear you. I like to walk into the garden and just stand there for a bit, looking around to see where the butterflies are. Then I walk slowly in that direction, camera ready to shoot. As soon as I can distinguish the butterfly from the background through the lens, I start shooting. I shoot another frame every few feet as I advance until either the lens reaches the minimum distance at which it will focus or the butterfly changes flowers. This way, I usually get at least one usable picture. If you go straight for the close-up, you’ll probably scare the butterfly away and end up with nothing.
3. Use your macro setting. This is often designated with a flower. Macro is what will let you get close enough to count the scales on a butterfly’s wing. It also lets you focus on the butterfly and put the foreground or the background out of focus. If you get too close, however, it will put part of the butterfly in focus and part out of focus.
4. No digital zoom. Use the maximum optical zoom available on your camera, but do not use digital zoom. Optical zoom enlarges the image through the camera lens, preserving the image quality. Digital zoom just enlarges the pixels, making your images fuzzy or grainy.
5. Use good editing software. Most people don’t need all the functions that Photoshop offers, but serious and even not-so-serious amateur photographers need some kind of editing software.
Many an inferior butterfly photo has been improved immeasurably by cropping the image down to the butterfly, adjusting the color and sharpening just a touch.
Some programs also allow you to straighten, caption, tag, upload to the Web and any number of other functions. I like both Photoshop Elements ($80) and Picasa (free download); however, there are many others that I have not tried but that have excellent online reviews. Search “photo editing software” and pick the one that you like best.