Getting Started with Flower and Plant Photography
The season for flowers is soon arriving, whether it be spring or fall flowers, so here are a few images to get you inspired, including some great tips for creating artful flower and plant images by Aminus3 Photographer, Barbara Kile.
Some keys for making amazing floral images:
The Right Equipment
- Lens: You need a macro lens, or a macro setting on a small camera. An inexpensive alternative to a macro lens is a macro or close up filter. This is a screw-on filter that attaches to the front of your lens and is simply glass, and high quality glass at that. One example is the Canon 500D or similar by Nikon. Buy the largest size (I use a 77mm) so it will fit your largest lens. You then use step rings to allow the close up filter to fit different size lenses. Extension tubes work well too, as they allow you to get closer to your subject, but they will cost you valuable light. The close up filter will not take light away, and it works beautifully with zoom lenses! The macro lens or close up filter each help to simplify your subject, rendering soft, non-intrusive backgrounds.
- Tripod: Since you are closer to your subject, a tripod or support is highly recommended, as even the slightest camera movement will cause blur in your image. Visit your camera store and see what will fit your needs, your budget and your camera.
- Reflector / Diffuser: Another accessory to consider would be a reflector set, available in several sizes. This set comes with a translucent diffusion shield to protect your subject from harsh light and silver and gold surfaces to bounce light onto your subject if needed.
As an example, check out the Impact 5-in-1 Reflector Disc - 22". You can also make a diffusion shield with white tissue paper, thin white fabric such as rip stop nylon, or similar, and make a frame to anchor it.
Almost as important as the flower itself, backgrounds need to be soft and generally out of focus. This is created by using a shallow depth of field. For example, on your SLR camera, with macro lens or close up filter attached, experiment with f/stops in the f/2.8-f/8 range. (The lower the f/stop number, the more shallow your depth of field focus) This narrows your depth of field and renders your background soft, and really isolates and simplifies your flower image. A cluttered background takes your viewer’s eye away from the flower or plant you want to feature! The macro setting on a point and shoot camera should give a similar result. If you are filling the frame with your flower, use f/11-f/22, as you do not have a background to consider. This increases the focus on your really close up flower!
Photograph flowers in shade or on overcast days. If it’s a sunny day, photograph in early morning or late afternoon light. Sunlight on flowers is often too harsh and creates those dreaded light and dark splotches in your background, including blown out (overexposed) spots and dark shadows on your flower.
You'll find the shade renders flowers with much more beautiful color and even lighting. The reflector set mentioned above is really valuable here, with the diffusion shield and the reflective surfaces, which help you work around less than desirable lighting situations.
Compose your flowers/plants so that they are arranged nicely in the frame and the focus point is where you want it. A few suggestions:
- Avoid 'bullseye' compositions. This means keeping your flower out of the center of the frame. If your camera has a viewfinder grid display, you’ll find it in your camera menu. This helps you to frame your subject in a more pleasing way. Get in the habit of taking several compositions of your plant or flower, then decide what is pleasing to you when you review the images on your computer screen.
- Leave room for your subject. A petal or edge should not clip or touch the edge of your frame. It’s best to include it all or decisively crop it. Get in the habit of ‘policing’ the edges of your frame and leave space where needed.
- The stamen or detailed center is most important. It should always be in focus for most applications. If you happen to have a bug on your flower or plant, then be sure the bug is in focus!
- Experiment with selective focus. Use an f/stop/aperture that renders a shallow depth of field (f/2.8-f/4) and pick one point to have in focus, letting the rest of the image be soft. These images make great abstracts!
- Try another view. The backs of flowers are often just as interesting, so experiment!
Yes, these are guidelines - but sometimes rules are made to be broken! Use these tips to get you started, then know you have permission to get out and play!
The flower, this delicate contribution to nature, awaits your gaze,
Intricate in artistry, reaching toward the light;
So fashionable, its beauty and form never cease to amaze;
Be still, respond, as you and your heart now reunite.
- By Barbara Kile
Enjoy these fabulous images and be inspired by fellow Aminus3 photographers, who beautifully illustrate the techniques of good flower and plant photography!