There’s a certain skill to photographing flowers but grasp the basics and you won’t look back. Great colour, shape and texture make them captivating subjects.
Before you start snapping think about what’s drawn you to a particular scene, or individual flower, and made you want to photograph it. Perhaps it’s the rich colour, the unusual markings or shape of the petals. Whatever it is concentrate on this striking characteristic to make sure it shows in your shots.
Finding flowers at the height of perfection isn’t as easy as it seems. You see a garden full of glorious flowers, on closer inspection though they can look disappointing. That’s why going to flower shows where everything is in peak condition is such a great idea, not to mention the huge amount of variety on offer.
On a compact camera, use the macro or close-up setting and a wide-angle zoom, the symbol for this setting on many cameras is a flower for good reason! A quality macro lens is the best option for SLR users. Or a lens with a long focal length, say around 200mm, will allow you to get a bit of distance between you and your subject. A cheaper option is a close-up lens that screws onto the front of your usual lens, just like a filter. You’ll need to get much closer to your subject though – they’re not called close-up lenses for nothing!
Expose correctly for the flowers not the foliage. Even if there’s a huge difference between the two it doesn’t matter that the foliage will look dark, it’s the blooms that count. It can even work to your advantage by emphasizing the shape of the flower.
Professional photographers often use reflectors to push light back into their photographs. A proper reflector usually has a gold side to add a warm glow, and a white side for a more natural effect. If you don’t want to splash out on a reflector try using a piece of white card instead. Just look at where the light is coming from and angle your reflector accordingly. A piece of paper can also be used overhead to diffuse harsh sunlight.
Faking it with editing software is easy to do and great fun. For example, with our own Picnik editing package you can enrich colours by boosting the saturation, or even change the colours entirely. Play around until you get the effect you want, whether it’s realistic looking or not.
A shallow depth of field gives you a sharply focused flower against a blurred background. This is a good way of keeping the viewers’ eyes where you want them, without being distracted by the background. With a shallow depth of field though even the slightest movement can give you fuzzy looking images, so be sure to take plenty of shots and avoid windy weather. It’s also a good idea to use spot metering to ensure the important part of your picture is sharp.
Here are a few other ideas for you. Place a sheet of coloured card behind your chosen bloom to give a clean background. Try a really tight crop where the flower takes up the entire shot without any background. Get low down and use the sky as the perfect backdrop. Wait for an insect to land for added interest, or photograph just after it’s rained so you get lots of lovely water droplets. If you’re working in strong sunlight a polarising filter is really useful to saturate your colours, and cut down on any shiny reflections in leaves and petals that you don’t want.