Everything You need To Know About Flower Photography
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I’ve been shooting flowers since the day I picked up my first camera. I have dragged my husband to gardens all over the world and could spend an hour perfecting the composition of a single flower. Flower photography is my passion and the reason I became a photographer. I thought it would be fun to show a side by side comparison of my progression; on the left is one of my first flower photos which was taken in 2007, and the photo on the right was taken just a few weeks ago in June 2020.
As you can see, I’ve come a long way since 2007 and I am sharing what I’ve learned it takes to create fabulous flower photography.
Check out my Flower Photography Gallery to see more of my progression as a flower photographer and to get some inspiration for your own photos!
Use A Macro Lens
Fine art flower photography uses many creative techniques that require getting close to the subject. It’s not enough to just have a wide aperture; you also need a short minimum focusing distance which is the closest distance you can get to the subject and still focus. Macro lenses are the best lenses for flower photography because they provide the most flexibility in aperture and focusing distance, allowing you to adjust from a wide shot to a macro shot without switching lenses. A true Macro lens will also have magnification which gives the appearance of being closer without actually getting closer.
Telephoto Lenses Are The Unsung Hero
Why would I send a telephoto lens to do a macro lens job? When you’re shooting outdoor flowers, getting closer isn’t always an option, such as for those located in water or off the hiking trail (be a responsible hiker and don’t leave the trail!). Unless you want to go swimming, you’re going to need a telephoto lens to capture water lilies or any other flower that may be inaccessible. Bugs are also easily frightened so you’re going to have more luck capturing insects with a lens that allows a tight shot from afar.
Someone once told me if you don’t like your photos, you’re probably not close enough. Shooting close up in flower photography eliminates a distracting background and highlights the gorgeous details of a flower. Frame the shot just tight enough to photograph the whole bloom, or get even closer to show off the details of the pedals, the pistil, or the stamen. The pistil is the female organ of the flower and the most prominent part of the center, the stamen is the male organ which includes the stalk that produces pollen. When I said everything you need to know, you didn’t know I was going to get scientific did you?
Bracket Exposure Is Your Friend
If you’ve been following along, you may already know how much I love bracket exposure – a setting on the camera that takes 3 photos at 3 different exposures with one click. I have found the settings the camera thinks are ideal aren’t always the most interesting, but constantly adjusting the exposure settings in the field can be cumbersome and cause you to miss the shot. Using bracket exposure allows you to quickly capture normal, dark & moody, and light & airy shots with just one click. It’s much easier to delete the bad photos later than it is to constantly make micro changes.
Don’t Forget About The Background
There are a variety a ways to compose the background, but here are a few of my tried and true techniques for creative backgrounds that will help draw attention to the flower.
- Isolate the flower by utilizing negative space such as the sky or plain foliage.
- Use a medium wide aperture to include neighboring flowers, but blurred out. This provides color, texture, and depth to the photo while still showcasing the main flower.
- Make the flower pop by using dark or contrasting colors in the background
- Provide a sense of location by including the mountains in the background or a statue from the garden.
Find The Best Flower
Don’t shoot the first flower you see and move on, take the time to find the best flower. Finding a flower with one or more of these elements will make your flower photography stand out from the rest.
- A flower in perfect condition
- Find the the perfect background or move around to shoot many different backgrounds.
- A flower with butterflies, insects, lizards, snails, or other garden guests.
- A clump of flowers in different stages of bloom to display the lifecycle
- Rain drops
Use Your Hands
Don’t be afraid to adjust the environment a little to stabilize the flower or push things in or out of the background. If you are composing a tight shot you won’t see your hands and a minor adjustment could make a huge impact on the final photo.
Unique Flowers Are Everywhere
It wasn’t until the pandemic that I realized you don’t have to travel the world to capture beautiful photos. You can cultivate your own garden and never have to leave your home to find your favorite flowers. Not all of us have a green thumb, but your neighbors might! When you actively look, you’ll be surprised at the variety of flowers you’ll find on a neighborhood walk or in local gardens. One of my favorite places for Texas wildflowers is in a North Austin neighborhood park.