Here in the North East we’ve had a long winter and wondered if and when spring would arrive. The good news is spring has finally arrived. The spring peepers (frogs) are out and are peeping away. The robins have arrived and the earliest of spring bloomers, the snowbells and crocuses are out.
This is a great time to get out you cameras out, blow off the dust and start to photograph this most beautiful occasion.
Flowers with their intricate patterns, colors and shapes for me are what I call “The Blueprint of the Divine”. Flowers with their beautiful colors are welcoming and inviting, as well as healing , help brighten the day and can be fragrant too. They add beautiful color to your photos for interior design, home décor, cards etc. So let’s get started.
Flowers can be photographed in many lighting conditions. My favorite is slightly overcast sky. In this type of lighting, the petals of the flowers are open and the colors of the flowers really come out and are not washed out by the sun. The clouds act like a large soft box and shadows and contrast are minimized.
Shooting flowers in the shade can yield similar results although the colors are usually (cooler) more on the blue side and the illumination less of the petals and flower in general.
Diffused light in the later part of the day towards the evening or early morning can be very nice as well, either before the sun is up or when the sun is low in the sky.
Direct sun is one of my least favorite lighting to use for flower photos as the sun’s rays can easily overexpose the petals and parts of the flowers that are in contact with the sun as well as adding strong contrast to other parts of the photos. Often the tonal range between the most bright and the most dark is more than the camera can capture so either some parts of the image will be blown out or overexposed and some parts will be underexposed or black. You might like this effect but to mellow this out, use a diffuser to put between the sun and your flower to block and soften the sun’s rays.
Another way to cut down on the reflections from the sun on your flowers is to use a polarizer filter. This will also help saturate the colors in the photo as well.
Every flower shot is different so where you position yourself can vary. Getting up close and personal with your flowers will reveal more detail in your photos. It will help fill the frame of your photos creating more impact in your photos as well allow the viewer and yourself to have a more intimate experience of the flower. If you get too close your camera won’t be able to focus so you may have to back away a bit if the image is blurry and can’t focus. Also before you stick your nose in a flower make sure there are no bees in it!!
Getting down and low is important for the reasons stated above. It also allows one to enter the world of the flower and see the world through the flowers eyes in a sense. It also can cut down on distracting objects in the background and reveals parts of the flower not often seen such as under the petals etc. You may look silly rolling around on the ground but you may also notice a healing effect of more energy, clarity of mind and grounding from making direct contact with Mother Earth.
Note of Caution: Make sure to have tick spray on if you live in the East Coast if you plan on rolling around on the ground. Many natural essential oil tick sprays such as “Badger anti-bug spray” are safe and work great”
Overhead shots can be another great angle to reveal the inner patterns on the petals as well as the inner parts of the flower.
Sometimes a slightly looking down angle can capture both the external petals as well as interior parts.
Even looking up can be a good angle to create a larger than life image as well as uncommonly seen perspective.
The most important thing to remember when photographing flowers is as you get closer to your subject the depth of field, or range from near to far in focus decreases dramatically. Larger number apertures (smaller opening) above f/10 will be needed to get the whole flower in focus. You may have to go up to f/16 and f/22 and higher to get the whole flower in focus. At the same time you want the background to be blurred so as not distract or take attention away from the flower. As you do this your shutter speed will have to be set slower and if there is wind, that can create blurr as your flower moves in the wind. The goal is to use a fast enough shutter speed to prevent any motion blurr from the blower moving at the same time maintaining proper focus on the flower and a blurred background.
Note: Blocking the wind with a reflector or body can help reduce the wind effect.
To better get the whole flower in focus some photographers will use a technique called focus stacking where multiple photos of varying focus distances are taken and combined together in Phototshop or dedicated focus stacking program such as Helicon Focus to do this.
The key to choosing a lens is to get a lens with the shortest or minimum focal/ focusing distance-the ability to get as close to a subject as possible. The lens which does this the best is called a Macro Lens. There are different focal length Macro lenses for different effects. I prefer the longer focal length Macro lenses. Sometimes using a zoom lens like a 70-200 can work well for shooting flowers if you don’t have a dedicated macro lens.
Here is a link to various macro lenses
If you don’t want to purchase a dedicated Macro lens, you can use what are called extension tubes which go between the camera and the lens which allows you to get closer to your subject. They are relatively inexpensive as compared to buying a dedicated Macro lens.
Use a Tripod
Use a tripod when shooting flowers to help prevent motion blurr/ or hand shake and to better compose your flowers. When you are so close up to flowers the slightest of movement will be noticed in your photos. If you are on the ground you can sometimes use smaller table top tripods or something to rest your camera on the ground while you are shooting such a bean bag/sand bag etc. Use a remote trigger or cable release when your camera is on the tripod to help cut down on any movement or vibration in the camera especially when shooting at below 1/30th of a second shutter speed.
How to compose your photo is very important and can make the difference between just an OK photo and a WOW photo. Use common compositional rules such as “The Rule of Third” to position your subject and try to create depth to your photos by having other secondary flowers in the distance behind your primary flower. Rather than having one flower you may want to have two or three etc. to establish a relationship between the flowers and create greater interest. Lastly find a background that is not distracting in such things as patterns, colors and especially brightness all which will take the views eye away from the subject.
This should give you enough information to get going. I hope I have inspired and given you the tools and information to make dynamic, creative and beautifully Wow! flower photos.