Spring flowers are starting to make an appearance with lines of Daffodils lining roads and crocuses showing their heads in gardens. There are plenty of ways you can photograph flowers and there’s no reason why you can’t just go out and shoot a variety of shots. However, if you’re pushed for time, it’s worth having an image in-mind before you head out of the door.
What Will I Need?
You’ll need a macro lens if you’re using a DSLR or a camera which has a macro mode on it for close-ups but if you want to capture a whole flower bed you’ll want to work with a wider-angle.
When working at such close focusing distances you’ll want to use a tripod as it’ll help keep your shots shake-free and they also help slow you down and make you think about composition. A tripod where the legs can splay out is ideal as you’ll be able to shoot from low angles, getting right into the patches of flowers you have in your garden. To reduce shake further, consider using a remote release or use your camera’s self-timer if you don’t have one.
Flowers tend to sway around even in the gentlest wind so try and make a barrier so it stays calm. A sheet of card is useful for this and convenient if you’re shooting in the garden.
If you’re planning on kneeling on the ground you may want to take a waterproof sheet out with you to keep your legs dry. A large bin bag will work fine or if you’re a Gardner, you could use knee pads if you have them.
Reflectors can bounce light under parts of the flower that are shaded but a piece of foil out of the kitchen draw can work just as well if you don’t have one to-hand. If you can, try experimenting with different coloured reflectors as they’ll create different tones/warmth.
Do check that your flash is turned off as it will just create harsh shadows and make sure you’ve selected the lowest ISO possible to stop noise spoiling your shot.
A polarising filter can be fitted to a lens to lower glare and enhance the natural colours of the flowers you’re shooting.
What time of day?
Overcast days are great for flower photography as clouds naturally diffuse light and your shot will be more evenly exposed. It’ll also help if it’s not a windy day as even the smallest of breezes will blow the flowers and when you’re working up close, the blur is more noticeable.
Avoid mid-day and if possible, shoot in the shade if it’s a sunny day as this will help bring out the detail in the flowers you’re photographing. Try creating your own shade with a piece of card as direct sun can cause colours to wash out and highlights can end up looking blown out.
What flowers to pick?
It’s easy to get carried away when shooting flowers in your garden, particularly when the weather’s nice, so do take the time to pause for a few minutes before hitting the shutter button to make sure your subject is in good shape.
If you have plenty of flower beds to pick from choose one that’s got a hedge or some other form of plain background behind it as busy backgrounds just distract. It helps if it contrasts with your flower – darker backgrounds can help colourful flowers ‘pop’ from the frame while shooting lower down and using a blue sky as your background can really emphasis the sense of spring/summer in your shots.
How to shoot?
Make it sharp
Once you’ve chosen your subject take a test shot to make sure it’s as sharp as possible. Check the image on your LCD screen, zooming in to double-check the petals are in focus.
One or more flowers?
If you have more than one flower in frame, focus on just one and use the others as a secondary point of interest. If you’re working in macro mode it’ll tend to use a large aperture which will mean your subject stays sharp while the background is thrown out of focus, however if you’re working in manual mode, you’ll need use a larger aperture to blur the background. For shots where you want more than one flower sharp, use a smaller aperture and you may need to make use of your camera’s focus lock if you find it tries to focus on the wrong part of the frame.
With the help of longer lenses you can home in on just one flower, using the flowers in the bed around them as a colourful, blurry frame.
If your compact has a good close focusing distance you’ll be able to shoot shots that just show parts of the flower. Those using DSLRs should use a small aperture to make sure everything stays sharp. For a more abstract shot, fill the frame with one or a few of the petals, making the shapes and colours the focus of the image. When working close, try spraying specimens with water tpo add an extra level of interest to your shots.
Think of it like a portrait
For a shot that’s more pleasing to the eye offset the stamen slightly and try, as you do with a portrait, positioning yourself so the flower sits slightly to the side.
Wides can be used to capture a carpet of colour, particularly if you get low to the ground, but they can also be used to shoot just one flower to give the impression that it’s larger than it is. For clusters of flowers close together shoot from under them so you’re facing the sky as a wide lens will give the impression that they’re really tall and reaching out of frame. Shooting from above will mean the flower heads will be smaller in the frame but you get an unusual sense of perspective as the outer flowers bend outwards from the bed to the heads.