Tips for Photographing Flowers

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(Untitled) by D. Travis North

Spring is here – at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere – and we all have the urge to go outside.  Some of us will look to the ground and the planting beds around our homes and notice a number of flowers that are already in bloom.  Many of us will take a camera to such flowers.  To help you make the best flower photos possible, I offer these tips.  Please feel free to share your own as well.

  • Color – Color if often an important consideration when shooting flowers.  But don’t feel that you need to capture it all the time.  Monochrome photos of flowers can be just as appealing (as my example shot here shows).  If you are shooting in color, make sure you get the colors just right.  If you don’t have a white balancing system, take a reference frame with something known in the shot for reference in post-processing.
  • Composition – Composition is important – you want the flower to be the clear subject.  You get close to fill the frame, or you may wish to show a little context.  If you show context, make sure that there is balance in the shot and that your subject is clearly defined.
  • Focus – This is a time to take advantage of your manual focus technique.  The delicate edges and subtle contrast of a flower may confuse your auto focus system, even if you’re selecting focus at a specific point.  Focus on the edge of a petal, or the pistil and stamen (the pollen parts).  Be careful you’re not getting too close to the flower – you don’t want to get closer than your lens’s minimum focusing distance.  If you have the desire to get really close, look into macro lenses, close-up lenses (filters) and extension tubes.
  • Tripod – Even if you have enough light, use a tripod.  You’ll want to duplicate a composition a number of times as you tinker with the lighting.  A tripod will make your life a little easier.  Besides, flowers will shift at the slightest breeze, stabilizing the camera will only help to get sharp images.
  • Lighting – Bright sunlight is not always our friend.  Shots in full-sun may result in some harsh shadows and undesirable contrast.  Flowers are supposed to be soft – aim for soft contrasts.  As many flowers grow in full-sun, you may have to create your own shade with an umbrella or even a large poster board.  To fill in the dark side of the flower, use a reflector or even a white poster board to reflect some of the light
  • Worry Not About the Small Stuff – Flowers might have brown edges.  Some species – like Dogwoods – often have brown spots.  These are natural, and many would expect them to be present.  Don’t waste time trying to touch the shots up in post-processing.  You’ll waste a lot of time making minimal – at best – improvements to the photograph.
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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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