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7 Tips for Elevating Your Flower Photography

Marianne Stenger
29th April 2019

Flowers are one of the great joys of spring and summer, and with the prestigious RHS Chelsea Flower Show coming up; it’s the perfect time to brush up on your still life photography skills.

Unlike many other photography subjects, flowers always stay put, and this makes them an excellent subject for photographers looking to get creative or practice using new techniques, effects or equipment. If you’re looking for some ideas or advice to get you started, here are a few things you can do to take your floral photography to the next level.

1. Simple is often best

The first rule of flower photography is to make sure that the flower will be the main point of focus in your photograph. Although this might seem obvious, it’s easy for the subject to get lost if you’re dealing with a cluttered or colourful background.

The best way to make sure there are no distractions that will pull the viewer’s attention away from the flower is to keep your images as clean and simple as possible. Take some time to think about how you can best compose the photo to accentuate the flower’s natural beauty.

2. Get in close

Believe it or not, you don’t necessarily need a macro lens to photography flowers well. A prime lens with a wide maximum aperture can get you excellent results as long as you move in close enough. Keep in mind, though, that the depth of field will be a lot thinner with a wider aperture, so you’ll need to make sure that your photograph’s main points of interest are still in focus.

Of course, you don’t always have to photograph the flower in its entirety; sometimes photographing just one section of a petal or the flower’s stamen can make for an interesting photo. Try to find designs or patterns that will draw the viewer’s gaze and create a strong focal point.

3. Move around to find the best angle

Shooting flowers at eye level isn’t wrong, but if you shoot all your images this way, they’ll end up looking quite similar. Moving around a bit and viewing your subject from a few different angles will help you figure out the best way to photograph it based on where the light is coming from.

If there’s quite a bit of clutter or other distractions such as people in the background, moving around will also help you find an angle from which this isn’t visible.  

4. Keep it sharp

Since you’ll be moving in close and focusing on a very small area, it’s important to make sure that your images will be tack sharp. If you’re working in ideal conditions with plenty of light and using a fast shutter speed, you might be able to get away with hand holding your camera, but keep in mind that a tripod is still the best way to prevent camera shake.

One issue you may run into when photographing flowers outdoors is having the flower itself move in the wind, which can make it challenging to get a perfectly sharp image. To get around this, try to bring something with you that can act as a wind blocker, whether it’s a reflector, an umbrella or a small board.

5. Use backlight creatively

Harsh backlight can be frustrating to work with, but there are times when it can be used creatively to create special effects. Sunrise and sunset are good times to use backlight creatively, as the sun will be lower in the sky and will cast a warmer glow. Have some fun experimenting with different backlight effects, whether it’s letting the light shine through the flower’s translucent petals and give it a glow or allowing some rays of sun to filter through the leaves.

6. Use a reflector

A reflector can come in handy when photographing flowers, because when the lighting conditions aren’t ideal, it will help you to throw some extra light on your subject and also reduce harsh shadows cast by trees or buildings. As mentioned earlier, they can also double as wind blockers if you’re having trouble keeping the flowers still long enough to focus.

Fortunately, reflectors don’t have to be expensive or bulky; you can get simple collapsible reflectors that are lightweight and portable, or even use another tool to reflect the light, such as a white poster board or sheet of foam.

7. Add a few drops of water

If you feel that the flower you’re photographing is a bit too plain on its own, one excellent way to add some interest to the photo is to spray some water over the flower’s petals or leaves. This will not only clear away any dust and make your subject appear fresher and more vibrant, but will also make the flower glisten as though it’s covered in early morning dew or has just been through a rain shower.

Looking for more tips on how to get up close and personal with your photography subjects? Check out our tips and advice for getting started with macro photography.