Thursday, 11 July 2013

How to photograph flowers

We all love flowers, they are beautiful and have lots of colours in them, the perfect subject to hone our photography skills; moreover they just sit there not moving, so getting a good flower shot should be a no-brainer right? Wrong! Getting good flower shots is no easy task; it’s an art that requires great skill and practice to master. Here in this article we will discuss tips to help you take your flower photography to the next level.

flower photography
Photo by Massimiliano

Where to Get Great Flowers to Shoot

If you happen to have access to a garden full of flowers, great; if not don’t worry, a visit to your local florist is all you need to do to get fresh specimens in their prime just waiting to be shot. You will have a wide variety of flowers to choose from and they are not very expensive too.

When to Shoot Flowers

flower photography rain
Photo By Leyla S. Ismet

If you are shooting indoors then you could shoot anytime, but if you are planning to shoot outside then you should consider the following tips seriously.

  • Shoot flowers earlier in the day:- early morning, before the sun has is fully up is the best time for shooting flowers, the flowers will be lit by soft light reflecting from the sky or clouds and also during that time there is less chance of having strong winds.
  • Cloudy or overcast days: - clouds act as giant diffusers softening the sun’s light reducing contrast and producing richer colours.
  • Immediately after the rains:- the overcast sky after the rains and the raindrops on the petals reflecting the colours of the flowers make it a good time for flower photography. 
  • If it’s a sunny day, try shooting flowers in the mornings or late afternoons to get light at an angle to your subject; using a reflector or a flash to fill in shadows, using longer focal length lenses to isolate your flowers from surroundings, positioning the flowers so that its backlit etc are techniques that work well during such occasions.

Fake the Rain

flower photography ideas
Photo By Denis Collette

Buy a small spray bottle that will easily fit in your camera bag, fill it with water and spray the flowers…. instant rain. You could get some lovely drops of water on your flower petals with just a couple of quick sprites.

If you need precise control over the size and position of your water droplets on the flower, then buy a small syringe and now you can place the right kind of droplets at the perfect places. 

Using Longer Focal length lenses to Shoot Flowers

Photo By Rosemary

It is just a common misconception that you need a true macro lens to shoot flowers, I have often found that longer focal length lenses in the range of 200mm – 400mm make very good choices for flower photography as they could really isolate your flowers from everything else in the scene and also blur the background beautifully making the subject stand out in the frame.

Turn Your Tele-Photo Lens into a Tele Macro

flower photography tips
Photo By Len Burgess

Adding a close up lens to the front of your tele photo lens will allow it to focus at much closer distances and thus magnify the subject even more. They are comparatively inexpensive to buy when compared to dedicated macro lenses but image quality may take a hit especially towards the corners.

Use a Macro Lens to Get Really Close to Your Flowers

how to photograph flowers
Photo By Tiwago

The only way to get really close up shots of tiny flowers is the use a true macro lens. A true macro lens is one which could go to life size or 1:1 magnification. Other than its magnification capabilities macro lenses are incredibly sharp and are designed to perform well at very short focusing distances. So if you are serious about flower photography then getting a true macro lens is the way to go.

Photographing Flowers on a Black Background

photographing flowers on a black background
Photo By Jeff S

You can make the flower really stand out and thus create very dramatic compositions by shooting flowers against a completely black background. One can create a black background in two different ways;
 One method to get a black background is to have a black surface as background for the flower (black velvet works best), place the flower a few feet away from the background, make sure there is not much light reaching the background so as to register any details and shoot. 

The second approach does not need any background material; instead it works by completely eliminating any ambient light from the exposure and totally lighting the flower with artificial light. The trick is to set your camera at its sync speed, ISO at 100 and adjust aperture till you get your frame totally dark, now adjust flash/strobe power to perfectly illuminate your subject.

Photographing Flowers on a White Background

photographing flowers on a white background
Photo By madamepsychosis

To photograph flowers against a white background you will need a white surface (white seamless paper will do) which is properly lit. The amount of light falling on the background should at least match the amount of light hitting the subject.  You could either light your flower and background separately or place your flower very close to the background so both are lit evenly by the same light source. One easy way to achieve a perfect white background is to use one of your lights (softbox mounted) as your background so now you have complete control over lighting on both subject and background.

To create a white background in a shot you need not necessarily find a perfectly white surface, even middle gray could be rendered perfectly white by overexposing the background. In fact the trick to getting perfect white as background is to overexpose the background by one or two stops.

Lighting for Indoor Flower Photography

Shooting flowers indoors is relatively easy since you have complete control on most elements like lighting and wind. You could either light up your flowers using flash or strobes. Or simply use diffused light coming from a window. If you plan to use window light for photographing flowers the following tips might be helpful

Using Window Light to Photograph Flowers

  • Choose a window that does not receive direct sunlight.
  • If the window have frosted glass instead of plain glass then it’s even better.
  • It doesn’t matter if the window is dirty in fact it makes the light even softer.
  • If you need to further soften or reduce the amount of light you can hang a curtain on the window. (Shower curtains and white bed sheets works really well in such scenarios).
  • Place the flowers as close to the window as possible.
  • Place the flowers and the camera so that light is coming at an angle (side lighting).

Photographing Flowers in the Field - Stopping the Wind

photographing flowers in the field
Photo By Rosemary

While shooting outdoors, you have absolutely no control over the nature’s elements and are completely under their mercy…. Well not completely. Wind is a flower photographers worst enemy, it is very frustrating having set up your shot, camera at the ready sitting solidly on a tripod, macro lens mounted, all settings go, waiting for the wind to subside allowing the flower to stay still. The old photographers trick of using their own body or of their assistants, their camera bags or such other stuff as shields against the wind is only helpful in a limited way. One could try shooting at very fast shutter speeds hoping to freeze the motion, or let wind be part of the scene by using a slow shutter speed to show the swaying of flowers.

Tips for Composing Flower Photographs

flower photography composition tips
Photo By Xavier

Don't shoot down on flowers; if you take your flower photographs from a standing position looking down at them you will only get average shots. Get down on you r knees, lie down on the ground, do whatever it takes but make sure you take a shot with your camera parallel to the flower and one with the camera down below the flowers shooting up at them. If you do that you are guaranteed some fascinating angles you rarely see and believe me it will add a lot more visual interest to your shots.