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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Want to try creative photography but feeling camera-shy? Looking for an opportunity to practice new camera work but need a fresh subject? The Florida Museum of Natural History’s first ButterflyFest Pollinator Photo Contest could be the perfect opportunity. Entries may be submitted beginning Saturday (Aug. 15) through Sept. 1.

Everyone with a camera and a love for bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinators is encouraged to enter, says Florida Museum photographer Jeff Gage.

“Anyone can be a great nature photographer,” Gage said. “From simple images of plants and trees to more complex, time-consuming shots of animals, moving water or broad landscapes, our environment produces photographic challenges and opportunities for all skill levels.”

If you’re eager to go outside and start snapping photos but unsure how to capture eye-catching images of small, often fast-moving pollinators, the following basic photography tips should help you get started.

  • Hold the camera steady. Using a tripod to keep your camera still will help prevent blurry images from camera shake. A tripod can also free your hands to experiment with your camera’s settings without losing a carefully selected composition, says Darren Rowse of the online Digital Photography School ( A good tripod can be full-size or small enough to stand on a small table.
  • Use the camera’s flash only when light conditions make it necessary. Try not to use a flash in low-light conditions outdoors – this advice may seem counterintuitive, but using a flash in these conditions, especially at sunset, will actually cause your pictures to come out too dark.
  • Don’t use the camera’s flash on subjects that are out of the flash’s range, generally about 10-15 feet. Otherwise, the flash is useless and the image will be too dark. Your camera’s instruction book will have the specific range your flash can reach.
  • Experiment with rotating your camera on its side (portrait) or on an angle while taking a picture. Images captured on a slant can add variety to an ordinary scene. However, this trick generally works best with images that have no discernable horizon line.
  • Set up an appropriate background. The main subject of an image should be the focal point. Backgrounds that are busy, meaning full of bright colors, movement or distracting lines of sight, take away from the main subject and reduce the impact of the image.
  • Try moving the subject to the left or right to block out or create distance from background elements. (Note: Do not try to move a non-domesticated pollinator such as a bat or wild bird; this could be hazardous and in most areas it is illegal to harass wildlife.) If you cannot easily move the subject, try shooting from a different angle or completely filling the frame with the subject.
  • Always carry your camera because you never know when you’ll spot the next pollinator!
  • Finally, wait until you are back at your computer to delete shots from your camera card, Rowse advises, because you may see elements that make “mistake” shots worth saving. It’s difficult to see the more subtle details of a photo on the typical 2- to 3-inch LCD camera screen.

Entries can be submitted at the front desk of Florida Museum in the University of Florida Cultural Plaza at Southwest 34th Street and Hull Road from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, or at The Gainesville Sun classified advertising counter at 2700 SW 13th St., from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information about the contest and to download an entry form visit

Helpful photography web sites:

Ten quick photo tips for beginners:–10-quick-photo-tips-for-beginners-4666

Macro photography tips for point and shoot digital cameras:

An explanation of focal lengths and apertures:

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Source: Jeff Gage, 352-273-2038,
Writer: Kelly Donovan
Media contact: Paul Ramey, 352-273-2054,