Flower Photography: Tips & Tricks
Flower photography is a highly satisfying photography pursuit, rewarding to both the eyes and to the aesthetic mind that appreciates the natural beauty all around us.
Choosing the right time & light
Harsh light of the sun always casts an unnatural color tone and suppresses details. Soft light like the one during an overcast day are perfect as the conditions create a natural softbox and brings the maximum amount of detail. If you’re unfortunately not blessed with an overcast day try using white umbrellas which can absorb the hard light and create a soft uniform light. Check Use Side Lighting to Your Advantage.
Don’t use flash
Hard light from your flash will almost always drown the fine details of a flower in a sea of light. If you really have to use flash, as if your life depends on it, try bouncing the light off a surface that will ensure that you have a large indirect light source that illuminates the flower uniformly and does not destroy the details.
Change the angle
Don’t always come down on a flower from the top. Try setting up your camera at an angle which is low and can show an unique perspective. Try different things like focusing on the pollen, cropping tight on a petal that has a drop of water and is just about to run down the surface, or even a flower that has a contrasting background of a bunch of other flowers of a different color. There is literally no limit to what you can do to get a shot that is beautiful.
Get in close
Getting close is essential in any flower photography assignments. Flowers are always admired up close and a very tight focus brings the best out of these colorful beauties.
Using a macro lens
Using a macro lens is the best way to ensure that you can get up close and personal when pursuing flower photography. A macro lens allows a close focusing distance (the distance between the sensor / image plane and the subject) which is important when trying to get a real-life reproduction on the sensor. Canon’s EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM is a great lens to start pursuing flower photography. It offers life size magnification (1:1) and costs a lot less compared with the features of a true macro lens. For a slightly higher budget the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM is a great lens to start your macro photography assignments. If you want something even better try the EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro USM, ideal for any type of macro photography including flower photography.
Using telephoto lenses to get bokeh
Telephoto lenses can help you to isolate the subject by blurring the background and the foreground. It is useful when you have a distracting background that affects the quality of the picture. Telephoto lenses have a long hyperfocal distance which helps you to get much of the frame to be out of focus. On the other hand if using a wide angle lens you will have a large Depth of Field facilitated by a relatively short hyperfocal distance which means much of the frame will be in focus.
Engage the image stabilization mode
When photographing flowers up-close even the smallest movement due to breeze etc. can ruin the pictures. While getting an absolutely still environment (with almost no wind blowing across) is difficult, you can try compensating for that by turning on the image stabilization option of your lens. Some lenses will offer you up to four stops of image shake correction. Canon for example offers IS III mode on some of their lenses. This mode engages the image stabilization mechanism only when the shutter is fully pressed. It is a great way to get a sharp picture. Learn more about your camera stabilizer How Does Your Camera Image Stabilizer Work?
Using a tripod
Tripods come in various sizes, features and build quality. Never go for something cheap unless you have a Point & Shoot to mount on it and even then it is not advisable. Always insist that the tripod is sturdy and would not wobble around when the wind picks up. The tripod should have smooth adjustable legs which will allow you to adjust the height and set your camera right down to the level of a small flower on the ground. Gorillapods are excellent for such purposes as they are very flexible.