How to Photograph Butterflies with Extension Tubes

Your long lens is a versatile tool. That is, if you know how to get the most out of it. When we talk about a long lens we usually talk about wildlife and birding and those sort of things. But did you know you can also shoot things that are much closer to you? Butterflies, for example? Bryan Peterson explains:

You’d think a macro lens would be more fitting for butterfly photography. So why are we deliberating on a long lens here? Because, as Peterson demonstrates, you can also shoot small subjects with a long lens. All you need is an extension tube.

When you use an extension tube it immediately does one thing to your lens: it gives your lens the ability to focus at extremely close distances. Forget focusing at infinity with a long lens once you attach an extension tube to it. The catch is you have to move a step or two back when using a telephoto lens with an extension tube.

Even with a telephoto lens you will get an incredibly shallow depth of field. The background and foreground go completely out of focus.

shooting macro with a long lens

Peterson with his Nikkor 200–500mm lens, Kenko extension tube, and monopod setup

long lens macro with extension tubes

When shooting butterflies it is recommended that you carry a monopod with you. You will need it when shooting with a heavy lens like the Nikkor 200-500mm that Peterson used. A tripod is less suitable here, because it’s bigger and less maneuverable. The monopod gives you that much more flexibility.

shooting butterflies with a long lens
long lens macro photography

Have you tried this technique? Share your images with us!

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