It’s amazing how many photographers start out by photographing flowers. If you think about it, though, it makes sense. They’re beautiful, usually easy to access except in winter months (and even then, that depends on where you live), and unless it’s windy, they pose quite nicely for you. Add to all of that, each one can be unique and special lighting can enhance them in ways that aren’t apparent to the naked eye, only through the lens and specific settings and processing.
But flower shots can tend to look the same. So today, I'll give you a few tricks and techniques to get you on your way to capturing some compelling flower images.
Depth of Field
Flowers are the one subject that a shallow depth of field is almost always a requirement. Whether shooting flowers up close or a large field of them, a shallow depth of field gives the flower(s) a prominent spot in your image. It makes them pop by diffusing the background. If you photograph a flower and there are distractions in the background that crowd your image, such as siding on a house, another plant, or your child’s toy. Unless it enhances the scene for some reason, ensure that distractions are not in the image, and know that a shallow depth of field will help tremendously.
I know... it’s hard to find an original flower scene to shoot, one that no one else has captured before. It’s not every day that you’re walking down the sidewalk and find a cool shot like the one above! But, that doesn’t mean they’re not out there. You just have to think outside the box, or greenhouse in this case, and be in your own creative mindset.
Here are some ideas, some of which may contradict what I said above, but like I also said, there are no definitive rules!
Look for flowers that do have interesting backdrops, such as ones that are growing alongside an old barn or a train track. Naturally, these wouldn’t be close ups, but they are situations that add creativity and originality when done right and compared to the generic close up or macro.
While those are outside opportunities, you can also look indoors. Perhaps capturing some flowers from under a glass-top table. Or, although most people want to photograph flowers on a sunny day, what if you did the opposite and captured a bouquet on a windowsill on a rainy day with drops of water rolling down the window? See where I’m going with these? A scene that tells a story, rather than just the petals in macro mode.
Whenever you’re photographing a still subject, and the space allows for it, I highly recommend using a tripod. One reason is because it allows you to set the camera up on your tripod, then you’re free to observe the scene without worrying about camera shake and where the strap is - over the shoulder, around the arm - letting you pay attention to the matter at hand: the scene and your camera settings! Certainly you’ll want to be looking through the viewfinder (or at your display if you prefer to do so), and seek the best angle and lighting. But, kind of like you have to turn the radio down when you exit off the highway (What? You don’t do that?), having your hands free might just help you think the shot through more clearly.
The most important reason for using a tripod, or other stable setting for your camera, is that you can slow down your shutter speed quite a bit without having to bump up the ISO (which creates more noise), giving you sharper results.
Opting for Macro
Of course you are likely to come across a flower in peak bloom or a perfect bud that you are going to want to capture up close. Remember to keep your depth of field shallow, such as f5.6 or smaller, and to use your tripod because being that close and personal to a flower means you want to be as steady as you can. There’s no room for error or it will blur. You want tack sharp results, so pop your camera to macro mode (realize that you will likely be moving the camera to and from the image until it’s in perfect focus... a quirky thing about macro mode).
Try different angles rather than shooting from straight above. See how the light changes when you move around to another side of the flower. Is there any light behind the petals that could illuminate it from behind and through the petal? Is side lighting more flattering? Ask these questions and more until you find the right lighting for your subject.
If you’re hooked on a program mode, such as Program itself or Aperture or Shutter Priority, try going manual on your flowers. Shooting still life, such as flowers, gives you time to really play with settings, unlike, for example, children playing on a playground! Having patience and being willing to try different modes and moods will teach you quite a bit as you go.
Whether a field like the top photo, a city scene like the middle one, or a mood setting image like the third, there are ample opportunities to photograph flowers and to have your images stand out from the rest!
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