We all like flowers. Whether you only buy or receive them occasionally, take huge pride in your garden or only see flowers at the local park, there’s no denying that they’re just nice to look at. Getting great photos of flowers isn’t always easy; here are some tips to either get you started, or help you improve.
- Use a shallow depth of field
I think even professional photographers get mixed up about this every now and then but, a shallow depth of field simply means that things in the front of the image will (hopefully) be sharp and focused. The background will then be blurred so as not to distract the viewer from the subject of the image. A shallow depth of field means having a high aperture (increasing the size of the hole for light to get through in your lens). This is simple enough but, as aperture is represented by the f-stop – so, f/5.0 for example, the lower this number, the bigger the aperture and the shallower the depth of field.
For shooting flowers you’ll normally need a smaller aperture/f-stop to produce a shallow depth of field. I like to use either f/4.0 or f/2.8 depending on the camera and lens, this keeps the foreground of the image nice and sharp and focused, and you get a nice out of focus background – or sometimes some bokeh.
ISO might not directly affect the amount of light that gets into your camera but it’s very important for ensuring your photos are not too dark and not too light. In terms of flower photography, the main point to remember about ISO is to keep it low. An ISO of either 100 or 200 will keep noisiness and grain down in your photos, keeping them sharp.
Set your ISO to 100 or 200, your f-stop to around f/2.8 and then adjust your shutter speed to control the exposure of your image.
3. Keep an eye on the weather
Even though it might feel good to head out with your camera and get some beautiful flower shots when the weather is warm and the sky is blue, it’s actually better to hold off until it’s a bit overcast. When the sky is cloudy, the natural light acts almost like a lightbox, making the whites and highlights a lot softer and easier to edit later. Also beware of windy weather. Shooting at a low ISO and shallow depth of field is great and all but, not so much if it’s breezy and you end up with too much blur.
To this end, perfect shooting conditions for outside flower photos usually occur in the morning or around dusk, this is usually when the calmest and least bright daytime hours are. Early morning is also great for catching a bit of dew or frost which can really add to your images.
- Try shooting indoors
You might not always be able to see flowers growing outside. However, you can always buy a bouquet or indoor plant during the winter months to get some beautiful images. You’ll have to adjust your shutter speed slightly as there will likely be less light inside but, as it’ll be softer light than outside and there won’t be any wind, you might find it’s easier capturing the photos inside – at least to start with.
- Try a different angle
We’re used to seeing flowers from above or at eye level. If you’re walking around a garden, you’re probably looking down at the flower as a whole, if you’ve got a vase of flowers on your kitchen table, they might be at eye level. It’s easy to think the best thing to do when capturing flower photos is to mimic this natural viewpoint, shooting from above or from the side.
However, it can be fun to try out different angles of attack for flower photography. It’s tempting to try and capture the flower as a whole, not cutting any of the petals out, but filling the frame is a great technique for blocking out the background and creating very colourful, vivid images.
I probably don’t have to tell you that equipment is quite important when it comes to photography. What you use, as well as how you use it, will always make a difference. But that doesn’t mean you have to have all the latest, most fantastic gear to take stunning shots. Yes, a macro lens is fantastic for getting those sharp, close-up flower photos. But if you use it will, a variety of all lenses will serve you well enough, even an iPhone can give you stunning results if you ask it nicely. And don’t forget, nowadays you can get macro lens add-ons for iPhones.
Consider using a tripod if you can. Shooting with a narrow depth of field, whilst on full zoom, with a low ISO can be tricky without one. Again though, it’s not always a must. With my Canon 400d, I use my kit lens on full zoom with a high aperture and low ISO which provides some really nice results, without using a tripod.
- Pay attention to the background
It’s always important to be aware of what’s in the background of your photos. Sometimes, we can be so focused on the subject of the image, we don’t think about what else is in the shot. Using a shallow depth of field is great for this as it blurs out the background but, there are other options.
Sometimes, less is more; you could try shooting with a blank background. Or using a fast shutter speed and bumping up the darks and shadows in Lightroom to create a black background
You could even use a deeper depth of field and take a step back so you can include several flowers in your shot.