By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
Sometimes the simple, elegant beauty of a flower can nearly take your breath away. The following flower photo tips may help.
How to Take Photos of Flowers
Here are some great tips to consider when taking pictures of flowers:
Take your time. What attracts you about this bloom? Look at the flower from different angles. Stand back, then get up close. Walk around the flower. Often, a low angle offers a unique perspective. Don’t worry about nipping the tips off the petals. Filling the frame can create a strong image.
Hold your camera steady when photographing flowers. This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to jiggle the camera without realizing it. Relax and don’t hold your breath. A tripod may help you get the perfect picture.
Consider the light. A sunny day isn’t always the best scenario. Sometimes, a cloudy day can make the color pop. Look at lighting from the front, sides and back, but be sure your own shadow doesn’t get in the way. Many photographers prefer taking pictures of flowers during the morning and evening, when the light is softer. Most avoid the harsh light of mid-day.
Don’t let the rain stop you. Just imagine the creativity involved in photographing flowers with shimmering, sparkling droplets of rain or dew on the petals. If no rain is in the forecast, mist from a spray bottle can provide the same effect.
Pay attention to the background. Sometimes, an out-of-focus background makes the flower look clear and sharp in contrast. The background will also change according to your vantage point. Be aware of clutter and extraneous things like power lines. A busy background will detract from the focal point.
Don’t shoo the bugs away. Bees, bugs, butterflies and hummingbirds are at home in the garden, and they add tremendous interest to flower photography.
Take care of your back and knees. Some flowers are low to the ground, so be careful when you’re photographing flowers from that vantage point. You may want to take a cushion or a plastic bag to keep your knees dry. For some shots, a kneeling bench may be just the thing.
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Freehand flower photography out in nature (or your own neighborhood) is one of my favorite photography genres. In this article and the 8-minute video above, I will give you my 8 best tips for flower photography in the wild.
#1. Use a fast and close focusing lens
A macro lens is an ideal option, but it is not strictly necessary unless you are photographing really small flowers. You will get beautiful results with a 50mm or 85mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 or f/2.0 or similar as well. A long focal length combined with a large maximum aperture will enable you to get the background blurred out in a pleasing way, which I personally often use as a foundational ingredient in my flower photos.
Two of my favorite lenses to use for flower photography is the Canon 135mm f/2.0 lens or the cheaper Samyang 135mm f/2.0, due to their superior sharpness and ability to blur out the background, while being pretty lightweight and not too expensive.
#2. Mind the background
Not minding the background is the mistake that most often messes up a flower photo that could have been beautiful. A nice flower is not enough, you need to combine it with a background that is beautiful and in harmony with the subject, but without taking over the photo. Compare these two photos taken of the same flower from the same position, only with a slight change of angle used when taking the photo. The background matters, even if it is only a blur of colors.
#3. Leverage flatness
The area that is in focus in front of your camera, will be very flat and thin when you are shooting something close to the camera, such as a flower that fills the frame. Therefore, try to find flat flowers or flat parts of the flowers and align your lens so that you encompass the flat flower with your flat focus plane. That way, your flower will be perfectly sharp, while the background is perfectly out of focus.
#4. Keep the background distant
The key to a photo where the flower stands out is to separate it from the background. The easiest way to do this is to keep the background blurry and out of focus. And the easiest way to do this is to try to get an angle of the flower where the background is as far away as possible. Try holding your camera close to the ground, and look for flowers that stand on their own without too much shrubbery around them.
#5. Mess with the colors
If your photo feels almost, but not quite, where you want it, it might be a good idea to mess around with the colors a bit. Use the color sliders in Lightroom to change the luminance or hue a bit of each color in the photo, and see if you can make the photo more interesting. This is a delicate art of course, as the slightest mistake here will make the photo look too artificial. Mess with the colors just enough to make the photo more interesting, but still believable. Study my before and after example here.
#6. Try black and white
If messing with the colors doesn’t work, try making the photo black and white. In a lot of cases, if the flower is bright or white, and if the background is darker, making it black and white will create a beautiful contrast that makes the photo stunning.
#7. Use the shade
Your chances of getting a nice flower photo will tenfold if you photograph it in shade, and not in direct sunlight. This is a very common mistake. In the shade, the light will be softer, and you will not get harsh shadows, washed out colors and overexposed areas in your photo. If the flower you want to capture isn’t already in the shade, just block the sun with your body while photographing it, as I did for the photo below.
#8. Work with contrast
As we have touched upon in previous tips, a good photograph is a lot about contrast. You want the flower to pop out of the background. The last tip is to leverage color contrast. Try to pick a flower that has a color that contrasts with the background, it will make for a lot nicer subject than a flower that is in a similar color as the background.
Below is an example of a photo that could have been great, but is instead very bland because there is no color contrast between the flower and the background – their colors are too similar.
And here is an example of a flower photo with good color contrast, the red flower vividly stands out from the blue background.
About the author: Micael Widell is a photography enthusiast based in Stockholm, Sweden. He loves photography, and runs a YouTube channel with tutorials, lens reviews and photography inspiration. You can also find him on Instagram and 500px where his username is @mwroll. This article was also published here.
1. The Classic Rules
The example above was photographed from the natural height you’d be standing at if you were leaning down slightly towards the flower. But you can get a stronger impact from more unusual angles. Instead of photographing the flower from above, try kneeling down to its level and holding your camera practically level.
This is easy advice for us to give, but it’s awkward to do in practice that’s why compositions like these don’t come naturally.
A dandelion with a horizon.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 70-200/2.8 IS II, 1/250 s, f/3.5, ISO 100, focal lenght 145 mm
This version also uses a more traditional composition—the dandelion has been placed on the intersection of the imaginary horizontal and vertical lines one-third of the way into the picture, which is a typical shortcut for a golden crop. Similarly, this time the horizon is about one-third of the way into the picture.
Our dandelion with some compositional aids.
The Rule of Thirds (or the Golden Crop rule) turns up often, and it’s useful whenever you want to place your subject into a context and capture a part of its surroundings as well. Long focal lengths let you significantly change the background via tiny shifts to the left or the right.
Tulips with a background: more tulips.
Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 70-200/2.8 IS II, 1/500 s, f/4.0, ISO 100, focal lenght 200 mm
Even though this photograph may seem cheap—tulips look elegant no matter what, right?—it actually isn’t. What’s been captured here is not a huge field of tulips. Not even close. It’s a tiny front-yard garden, and so I needed to very carefully fine-tune my composition to hide the house’s plastered exterior on the one side, and the sidewalk on the other.
Six Tips for Better Photographs of Plants
By Guest Poster 48 Comments
Last Updated On April 6, 2018
Although I am primarily a landscape photographer, I have recently found a great deal of enjoyment in photographing plants, both in botanic gardens and in the wild. Photographing these kinds of smaller scenes feels more meditative than photographing landscapes, as the process often includes slowing down, seeking out details, and taking time to craft photographs of sometimes tiny subjects. Another primary benefit of seeking out these kinds of subjects is their prevalence. Plants like those featured in this post can be found in almost any landscape or garden, which means it can be easy to find compelling subjects close to home. And, since many photographers pass by these kinds of scenes without a second thought, you have ample opportunity to make unique, creative photographs.
Canon EOS 6D @ 100mm, ISO 200, 3/10, f/20.0
In terms of gear, all of the photographs discussed below have been created using a 100mm macro lens, a helpful but not essential tool. In my case, I use the Canon 100mm L f/2.8 lens but a basic macro lens or moderate telephoto lens from any manufacturer can work (the shorter the minimum focusing distance, the better). For the photographs with sharpness throughout, I selected a smaller aperture like f/16 or f/22 to get all of the main elements in focus (whereas smaller apertures on other lenses can degrade image quality, I have found that my particular lens still performs well at its limits). For those photos relying on low depth-of-field as a key technique, I selected a wider aperture like f/2.8 or f/4 to help pleasantly blur some of the details.
For all of the photos, I set up my lens quite close to the subject, often only inches away. In some cases, like the photo above, I set up a tripod and experiment with small changes until I find the composition I like most since small changes can often make a big difference with these types of photographs. For other photos, like the low depth-of-field examples below, I hand-hold my camera so I can freely move back and forth to experiment with small changes in position. In addition to these basic techniques, another six tips for taking these kinds of photographs of plants are shared below.
Canon EOS 6D @ 100mm, ISO 100, 1/2, f/16.0
Look for Year-Round Opportunities
Both natural places and manicured gardens can provide opportunities for photographing plants year-round. While winter and early spring will often require more diligence in exploring for subjects, opportunities can still abound if you bring an open mind. In the case of this photograph, taken at the Denver Botanic Gardens in the middle of winter, the weight of the snow flattened the plants and made them a better subject than their more perky summer counterparts. Also, the cold of winter brought some lovely pastel colors that I had not seen any other time of year, as these plants are usually bright green, yellow, and orange. In addition to these plants, I also found grasses, cactus, succulents, and coniferous trees on the same winter day, all creating excellent but unexpected options for photography.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II @ 100mm, ISO 800, 1/13, f/16.0
Look for Patterns and Textures
Nature offers up all sorts of patterns and textures for the careful observer. By taking the time to explore and notice the details of a place, photographers can identify all different kinds of small scenes worthy of photographing. Above, the repeating patterns and consistent color in this patch of wood sorrel are the two primary elements I used in composing this photograph. This plant is common along trails in the Pacific Northwest but it took some time to find a patch in good condition with the plants growing at a similar height, which makes getting all of the main elements in focus in a single exposure much easier. Next time you are out with your camera, set aside some time just to look for these kinds of patterns in nature. Groundcovers, bark, cactus, and all different sorts of plants can offer up interesting patterns and textures once you start looking for them.
Canon EOS 6D @ 100mm, ISO 800, 1/200, f/2.8 Canon EOS 6D @ 100mm, ISO 800, 1/400, f/2.8
Embrace Low Depth-of-Field
At least for landscape photographers, embracing low depth of field and the out of focus elements that come with it can be a major shift in mentality. When photographing small subjects like plants or flowers, low depth of field can often transform a subject from the literal to the abstract. Instead of photographing petals or stems or leaves, you are instead photographing lines and shapes like seen in the images above. These abstracts that can emerge make low depth of field an excellent creative technique when photographing plants.
In the case of the top photograph of a seed pod (about two inches in diameter), getting close, using a wide aperture like f/2.8, and experimenting with different focus points, I could emphasize the radiating nature of the plant’s center. The same plant looks entirely different with a slightly shifted focus point and different perspective in the second photograph, with the seeds looking like upside down umbrellas. Comparing these two images of the same subject taken within minutes of each other demonstrates the difference that a slight change in focus, depth of field, and perspective can make when working close to a subject using a wide aperture.
Canon EOS 6D @ 100mm, ISO 800, 1/1000, f/3.2
Experiment with Light
Although it is one of the more difficult types of light to photograph, backlighting – when the light source is behind your subject – can often add interest and mood to a photograph. For this photo, I laid on the ground eye-level with these bare winter bushes and faced into the low sun, using shallow depth of field to render bits of the light and bushes out of focus. Fuzzy subjects, like these pussy willows, cactus, and many flowers, catch backlighting well, giving a subject a natural glow that can translate well into a photograph. These images can take a lot of experimentation, persistence, and perfecting your technique to come together so be prepared to try again if your first attempt does not work out as you might have hoped.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II @ 100mm, ISO 100, 1/1, f/18.0
In almost all cases when photographing plants, I get quite close to my subject (often right at my lens’s minimum focusing distance). Getting close can help eliminate distractions, isolate your subject for a better composition, and emphasize the abstract elements of your subject. In the case of the subject above, each small rosette is about the size of a pencil eraser and the fist-sized plant itself was surrounded by rocks and dirt. A closer perspective helps eliminate all of those potential distractions, allowing the subject t of the photograph – the repeating rosettes – to fill the frame. This photograph also highlights the importance of looking around for details. These plants grow in tiny patches on canyon walls and slickrock in Zion National Park and without some effort to seek them out, most people will walk right by without a second thought.
Canon EOS 6D @ 100mm, ISO 100, 6/10, f/22.0
Don’t Be Afraid to Look a Tiny Bit Foolish
Last summer, the Denver Botanic Gardens hosted a glass exhibit and the popularity of the gardens dramatically increased. The exhibit attracted large crowds which meant that setting up a tripod and leisurely photographing would not be possible. Still, on one particular visit to the garden, I saw this beautiful succulent rosette plant and felt like I had to photograph it before leaving. The plant was growing at an odd angle in a potted planter, right in front of the entrance that all visitors passed through upon arrival. Because of the location of the plant near the ground and its odd angle, I had to kneel down and contort my body to get the right angle. I heard a few snickers from visitors passing by, wondering what I could possibly be photographing. This general experience has repeated itself quite a few times and while I never want to get in the way of other visitors, I am willing to look a little foolish in public for a photograph. So, forget about what others will think and as long as you are not impacting their experience, feel free to embarrass yourself for a better photograph!
If you have any of your own tips on photographing plants, please share then in the comments below.
This guest post was submitted by Sarah Marino, a professional landscape photographer based in the Rocky Mountain West. She is the co-author of a popular e-book, Beyond the Grand Landscape, which you can check out on her Nature Photo Guides website, along with more of her work.
25 flower photography tips for beginners
Improve your flower photography: tips, tricks and techniques for pictures bursting with style. All you need, from the best digital camera settings to lighting for flowers…
Now's the time to improve your flower photos. Spring and summer offer huge potential to shoot stunning plant and flower portraits. Whether it's in your garden, a public park or even on the side of the road, there's plenty of fantastic photos for the taking. In this guide we've got 25 top flower photography tips for you. Use them, and watch your photography, erm. blossom. Sorry.
1 Macro lenses
If you're interested in close-up flower photography then you should invest in a macro lens. Using a macro lens enables you to focus up close so you can really fill the frame with your subject. A true macro lens produces an image recorded on the sensor at life-size or larger. Great care has to be taken when focusing macro lenses as depth of field is very limited when you're so close to your subject.
2 Extension tubes
If you want to try close-up photography without the expense of a macro lens, then extension tubes are a good alternative. Three tubes of varying depth form a set of extension tubes. A tube or combination of tubes is fitted between the camera body and the lens. Moving the lens away from the sensor reduces the minimum focusing distance to allow close-up photography.
3 Use a tripod
A good tripod is worth its weight in gold when photographing flowers - so pick the heaviest! Using a tripod slows you down and helps you think clearly about what you're trying to achieve. You can fine-tune composition using a tripod and keep the point of focus exactly where you want it. The ideal type is a sturdy tripod with legs that can splay out so you can photograph close to the ground.
4 Remote release
In order to produce flower pictures that are pin-sharp you need to reduce the risk of camera-shake. With your camera mounted on a tripod you should then attach a cable release. This enables you to fire the shutter without risking camera movement as a result of you pressing down on the shutter release button.
5 Go telephoto
In order to isolate a particular flower from its surroundings you should use a telephoto lens. A long lens when used with the camera set to a wide aperture can really throw the foreground and background out of focus so that the viewer's attention is held where you want it. This is a great technique if you want to produce impressive photographs of individual plants.
6 Wideangle lenses have their place
If you'd like to show an individual plant or a group of plants in their surroundings, then a wideangle lens is the tool for the job. Using one enables you to include the plants' environment in a photograph so there's more information available for the viewer. Depth of field is also increased, so your image can be sharp all the way from the foreground to the background.
7 Switch off autofocus
Depth of field is so narrow in close-up photography that precise focusing is critical, even with small apertures. To ensure your shots are sharp where you want, try switching to manual focus and doing it yourself. Changing focus alters the magnification of the subject, so set that first, then gently nudge the camera backwards and forwards to position the sweet spot of sharpness where you want it.