Color & Light
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Floral Photography; The Beauty And Variety Of Nature’s Designs
I’m sure that everyone who has ever owned a camera has taken pictures of flowers. It’s impossible not to. Flowers are too beautiful to resist, and there are so many species and varieties that you could devote your entire life to shooting nothing but flowers and hardly scratch the surface.
There are many styles and techniques photographers use to shoot flowers, from complete abstractions to images that show every detail with tack sharp clarity. I will present a few different ways of photographing flowers here, and then I encourage you to experiment and develop your own artistic approach. There is no end to what you can do.
There are five important ingredients that go into good flower photography.
2. Use a tripod. The only way you can use very small lens apertures is if you use a tripod. As you close the aperture down, the light is reduced significantly. This in turn forces the shutter speed to be too long to hand-hold the camera. Raising the ISO is not a good solution because of the increase in digital noise. The only way to shoot flowers, assuming you want as much detail as possible, is to use a tripod, a small lens aperture and a slow shutter speed.
3. Shoot in soft light. Contrary to what many photographers think, the colors and details in flowers are best revealed with diffused light typical of an overcast sky. Contrast is minimal and the colors—whether they are subtle or intense—appear brilliant and saturated. The impatients I shot in Michigan (#3) and the Indian paintbrush from Texas (#4) are examples. Direct sunlight would have been much less effective in producing artistic images of these flowers.
4. Fill the frame. Don’t include unnecessary elements when photographing flowers. Fill the frame as much as possible with the subjects. Dirt, dying blossoms, distracting stems and other elements can detract from the composition. If the subject flower is too small in the frame, it will seem insignificant no matter how beautiful it might be. If you are shooting a field of flowers or even a garden, then different parameters apply. For individual flowers (or a small cluster of flowers such as #5 and #6) get close.
5. Choose uncluttered backgrounds. Always pay attention to the background at the time of shooting. Backgrounds are virtually as important as subjects in making a picture work. If they are messy and there is a lot going on, they pull our attention away from your subjects. Very light areas behind a subject are usually distracting, and pronounced graphic lines are also a problem. Just as you carefully consider your subjects, at the same time you need to carefully consider the background. For example, is it too light? Too messy? Too attention grabbing? Does it have distracting lines or colors? Is it too sharp or not sharp enough? The background should either complement the subject or be an integral part of the subject. Sometimes there is nothing that you can do; other times you can change your shooting angle and eliminate distractions.
I prefer to use black velvet (I buy two yards of material) instead of other types of fabrics for the background. Velvet (or the less expensive velveteen) absorbs light much better and there is less likelihood of the fabric’s texture showing or, worse, the background looking like dark gray instead of black. If you are using flash, place the background at least 2 feet in back of the flower so the light fall-off from the flash will underexpose the velvet. This is an additional guarantee that the background will remain black.
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