Butterflies and the Canon RF 100mm-500mm L

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Have you ever tried to photograph butterflies?  It’s not as easy as you may think.

To shoot butterflies, you need to balance a macro shot with a very skittish subject.  Focus stacking may sound like a great idea, but butterflies love to flap or move as they have their meal.  Trying to get that one shot is the challenge.

Technically, you want to get as much of the butterfly in focus as possible while blurring the background to keep the focal point on the subject.  That’s where the Canon RF 100mm-500mm L comes in. 

Butterfly tents or exhibits are perfect!  You can get close to the subject and the butterflies will likely be used to being around humans.


Here are some Tips:

  • Zoom in enough to make the subject fill the frame, but keep some background to ground the subject. 
  • The higher the focal length, the better the background blur.  Normally, you would want a wide open aperture to help blur the background.  But, with a tight macro shot, you need a smaller aperture to increase the sharp detail in your depth of field. 
  • Let the camera set the shutter speed & ISO based on the available light.  Avoid using a flash.
  • It’s a balancing act and takes experimentation.  I found using an aperture between f/5.6 and f/8 keeps most of the butterfly as sharp as possible, but you can also try f/4.5 to increase the soft blur of the background. 
  • Can you use the RF 70mm-200mm L? Sure, but it will be much harder to get the whole butterfly sharp with a f/2.8…especially both wings…

One last point – Watch the position of the butterfly’s wings.  When the wings are completely open, it is easier to get most of the butterfly sharp.  But, you can also create a beautiful shot with part of the butterfly out of focus.  Be creative and have fun with it.

All of these photos were taken with the Canon R5 and the Canon RF 100mm-500mm L.

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