By Ian Ward

Camera: Canon EOS5D Mk II Lens: EF 180mm f/3.5LMacro

Exposure: l/125sec at f/11 (ISO 800)

Ian says: «This was taken in Bentley Wood in the New Forest. The small pearl-bordered fritillary had just emerged and it was a perfect specimen! I spent time searching for the butterfly in a good position with a clean background and used a higher ISO rating as I was handholding.»

LEE FROST: I’m used to being presented with images in Expert Critique that have obvious flaws, and it makes my job easier because I’ve got something to write about! But my immediate reaction on seeing lan’s close-up is: «There’s now wrong with that shot — it’s fantastic». I’ve just bought myself a macro lens as I’mkeen to shoot some close-ups — if they turn out half as good as this I’ll be more than happy!

For me, lan’s image boasts all the factors that a great close-up should have. The subject is sharp in the most important areas, but the background is blurred and unobtrusive so the butterfly stands out brilliantly. The neutral colour of the background also makes the warmer colouring of the butterfly seem brighter and more vivid. The quality of light is also perfect for this type of shot — it’s soft and shadowless, just what lan needed to reveal the butterfly at its best. Extra interest is added by the flower that the butterfly is standing on, and the strong diagonal created by the stem.

I’m particularly impressed by the fact that Ian took the shot handheld. Okay, he had to bump up the ISO to 800 to manage a decent shutter speed.but image quality is still superb even at what we would consider to be a high ISO rating — proof that we no longer need to be obsessed with shooting everything at ISO 100.

I reckon this shot would look great splashed across a double-page spread! Verdict: A superb close-up that can’t be faulted. Great job, Ian!

ROSS HODDINOTT: What can I say other than this is a really nice butterfly portrait? Small pearl-bordered fritillaries are exquisite butterflies and their under wings are every bit as photographic as their fore wings. Technically speaking, Ian has done everything pretty much spot-on. He’s raised the ISO to generate a shutter speed fast enough to work handheld. The result is bitingly sharp — believe me, not easy to do when shooting handheld at such a high magnification! An aperture off/11 has provided sufficient depth-of-field to keep both butterfly and reed sharply in focus, while being shallow enough to diffuse the background. When shooting insects, background choice is important, and here the natural backdrop helps the butterfly to stand out. It’s hard to find anything to fault. My only constructive criticism is that there appears to be a slight green tint to the shot. I might alter colour temperature just slightly to neutralise this. I’d also lighten the image ever so slightly, but that’s subjective. Overall, a top shot of a very challenging subject. Verdict: A lovely butterfly portrait and, technically, a very good close-up image.


When shooting butterflies and other insects at high magnification, it’s important to keep your plane of focus parallel to the insect, in order to render them sharp throughout. In the case of butterflies, side-on shots suit perfectly when the butterfly is resting, wings-closed. If it were resting wings-open, then an overhead viewpoint would be more suitable.

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