DSLR Beginner guides | Photographing flowers

Article and images produced by Jeff Tombs

Here are a few tips on how to produce impressive flower photographs:-

1 - Equipment. Use a good macro lens and a tripod. When shooting flower macros, the slightest movement can ruin the focus, which is why a tripod is often essential.

2 - Lighting. Avoid shooting in poor light or very bright sunshine. Harsh light blows the photograph and washes out the colour. The best flower shots are obtained around dawn or dusk on clear days when the sunlight is not too harsh. Alternatively, shoot on bright but slightly overcast days when clouds act as a natural light diffuser. Try shooting with the light coming from the side. Backlighting can be very effective too.

3 - Wind. The wind is the bane of the flower photographer’s life because it moves the subject in and out of focus. Try to shoot on windless days or use a flower clamp to steady the flower - one end is pushed into the soil and the other attaches to the flower (just out of shot) to hold it steady.

4 - Subject Matter. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, so pick a beautiful flower, which is in peak condition. Sometimes it is best to focus on just part of a flower or leaf, as in this shot where I included just the centre of a Double Delight rose in the photograph, rather than the whole flower. If possible, try to include something of interest in the shot, such as an insect or a drop of water.

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

Click image to enlarge

5 - Background. The background (or bokeh as it is known) is very important in flower photography, which is as much about what is out of focus as what is in focus. Many really good shots have just the subject flower in focus, whilst everything else is blurred. This effect can be obtained shooting close up and using a wide f stop - between f/2.8 and f/5, for example. This photograph was taken using f/5.

Click image to enlarge

6 - Colour. Try to match the subject flower to a contrasting or complimentary background. For example, a yellow sunflower against a bright blue sky or a blue flower with similar blue flowers in the background, as in this photograph.

Click image to enlarge

7 - Focus. Always use manual focus. This enables you to bring different parts of the flower in and out of focus until you find the most artistic or dramatic effect.

8 - Angle. Take the photograph from flower level, rather than from above. This is not how people usually view flowers and helps to create a fresh perspective.

9 - Tricks. Try hanging a piece of black cloth behind the flower to create a dark background and spray the flower with water, as in this photograph.

Click image to enlarge

10 - Post processing. The technique of blurring the background in order to make the subject stand out by applying Gaussian blur in Photoshop (as described elsewhere on this website) works equally well for flowers as it does for birds.

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