6 Tips to Take Better Flower Photos
Photographing flowers is often rewarding.
However if the sun isn't at a good angle, or there is too much shade, or if the wind is blowing too strongly for your subject to keep still, or if the subject is hiding behind others in a place difficult to reach, then it can be frustrating.
Experts advise that early morning and late afternoon provide lovely lighting for capturing the best flower photos (as well as for sunrise and sunset photographs).
But these are not always practical times - you can capture good flower photos in all sorts of lighting and conditions.
How to take flower photos
- Tripods and image stabilization are useful (but not necessary) for capturing clear photos of flowers.
- Macro lenses or settings are nice to help you focus on tiny details.
- Software can help adjust, process and crop your photos.
The main ingredients of a good flower photo are patience, the ability to hold the camera still, and knowing how far away from the flower your camera and lens needs to be.
Plus you should enjoy taking many photos, and have an eye for detail.
Good balance is also an asset - perhaps those yoga classes can come in handy again?
1. Backgrounds and lighting
To make a single flower stand out of a photo, a contrasting background is important. Dark backgrounds for lighter or brighter coloured flowers work well, but white will also bring out the colours in flowers.
A clear blue sky can work well, especially if you are photographing flowers that are above you. Play with shadows and rays of sunlight for different effects. Use a piece of paper (white or another light colour) to capture only the shadow of the flower.
The light from an overcast or stormy sky helps colours to stand out naturally, and raindrops on flowers lend a delicacy that is often not seen when dry. But make sure your camera is protected from rain!
If your flower subject is near, in or on water, the reflections can add a different feeling. You can focus on the reflection or the flower, or move the water to add gentle ripples.
Don't use a flash, unless you can diffuse the harsh, bright light. Flash photography often washes out colour, and introduces strong shadows, not something you want to happen to your flower!
If the single flower you want to photograph is on a busy or distracting background, you'll need to reduce the focus on the background.
If you have a camera that allows you to, select a wide aperture to narrowly focus only on the flower, and blur the background details. Alternatively, you could use a macro setting and get in close to the flower.
2. Macro photos of flowers
In macro photography the depth of field is very shallow because the aperture is large.
This results in blurred backgrounds (and foregrounds), perfect for focusing only on tiny details, such as the center of the flower, the pollen, or the veins in the petals.
You don't need to get the entire flower in focus, just spot focus on the details that you want to highlight in your photo.
If your camera allows, you should use low ISO settings, to reduce the amount of noise in the photo - you want your details to be sharp and crystal clear.
To keep your camera stable when taking macro shots, a tripod or some form of image stabilization, either built into the camera or in the lens, is highly recommended.
There are even small tripods available for cell phones and ultra-portable cameras!
3. Wider angles for flower fields
To capture a field of flowers, you'll want to use a smaller aperture and a larger depth of field.
A landscape or portrait setting on most cameras will do this for you automatically. Include features like trees or buildings to show the flower field's size.
Or photograph the field from underneath the flowers for an insect's view.
If you are lucky, you can catch an insect on the flower. This will add interest to your shot and catch the eye of your audience.
4. Seed heads and dead flowers
Don't give up on flowers as they are dying, or on their dry remnants. The textures of grasses, seed heads and dead flowers are completely different to flowers - devoid of colour, but often with strong sharp lines and shadows.
Photographing flowers against a back-lit white piece of paper can expose veins and features normally hidden. This is especially so for capturing delicately pressed dried flowers or foliage.
Don't forget to look around for grass seed heads, dying or dried flowers and fallen petals, when hunting for your flower photos.
5. After effects
You can use most photo editing software to crop your photo and remove unwanted details, to fix lighting issues, reduce noise, blur areas, or make colour adjustments.
A bit more extreme - black and white, sepia and other effects can be applied to your photos, giving them a completely different quality.
To bring attention to texture and details that would otherwise be hidden, black and white is a good choice. The best flowers to turn into black and white photos are those with bold and contrasting colours, lines and/or tones.
Sepia makes photos look antique and nostalgic, often used in wedding and urban photography. You can also add noise to make a photo appear older.
6. Gear for photographing flowers
For close-up flower photography, a macro lens, or at the least a camera with a macro setting, makes capturing detailed crisp images much easier.
Tripods or monopods help with stability issues, you need to be able to keep the camera very still to capture details.
A camera with image stabilization, or lenses with built in image stabilization can also help to capture sharp clear details.
Various lenses and filters can be used to add lighting and colour shift effects. A polarizing filter makes skies bluer and darker, deepens the colour of non-metallic objects, and reduces reflections on glass, smooth surfaces and water.
Upgrading your equipment?
If you are looking to upgrade to a DSLR camera, especially if you want to take macro photographs of flowers, look through the range of lenses available for the cameras you are considering.
I knew I was staying with Canon, as they had the image stabilization system that worked best for me, and the biggest range of lenses.
I chose the camera body to fit my hand - not too heavy or cumbersome, so I could get flower shots at any angle.
The 100mm F2.8 L IS macro lens has only recently been released, but received rave reviews. It was also the only IS macro lens available at the time I was looking. I'm delighted with how my flower pictures with my new lens and camera turn out!
You don't need expensive gear or extensive training to take good flower photos.
Most of the photos in this hub were taken by me, with no training, and a mid-range consumer camera without any add-ons (Canon Powershot S3 IS). I am often quite shaky, so the image stabilisation is necessary for me. But, I did not even use a tripod for any of these photos!
As with most photography, be patient, take many photos, and play around with lighting, positions and subjects. Especially with flower photography, expect that a great number of the photos will unfocused or have other aspects that detract.
Play around with your favourite photos in image editing software, both to make small image corrections and to make larger changes.
Most importantly, have fun, and enjoy the time you spend hunting flowers!