Image Credit: Amber Fite
Flowers are abundant in many locations in the spring and summer, making them ideal subjects for photography.
But learning how to photograph flowers requires more than just finding a beautiful flower, pointing your camera at it, and pressing the shutter button.
In this quick tutorial, I present a few tips for taking photos of flowers that will help you get gorgeous results.
Editor's Note: Some of the images and tips in this article were provided by our friend, Amber Fite. To see more of Amber's work, visit her website.
Plan Ahead for Beautiful Flower Photos
Though shooting off-the-cuff is warranted sometimes, if you plan your flower photo sessions ahead of time, you'll have much better results in the end.
Obviously, you need to have the appropriate gear (a camera and lens, tripod, and perhaps a remote shutter release).
But you also need to think about the types of shots you want to take.
From a compositional standpoint, think about how you want to frame the shot - up close, wide angle, or somewhere in between?
Also consider what you want the focal point of the photo to be. Do you want to draw attention to the flower's bloom, a specific petal on the flower, the stem, or a bug that's crawling around?
Think as well about the best perspective from which to take the photo.
Photographing flowers from above gives viewers a normal view of flowers as they're usually seen. But for something more unique, you might consider photographing flowers from a lower perspective looking up at them, as shown above.
Editor's Tip: Once you've taken and edited your photos, the next step is to have them printed. See what your photos look like as fine art prints.
Consider the orientation of the photo, too. That is, when you're composing the image, would it be best to photograph the flower in vertical or horizontal format?
Many of these considerations will become second nature as you photograph more and more flowers. But when you're just starting out, you might need to run through this mental checklist a few times before each shot you take to ensure you're getting optimal results.
Quick Tip From Amber: "Most of the rules and concepts in portrait photography can be applied to flower photography - interesting compositions, depth of field, and light, for me, are the most important. When I look at a flower that I want to photograph, I visualize the photograph before taking the shot. Do I want a high angle shot, straight on, low angle? How do I want people to see the flowers, what do I want the flowers to “say”? Then, I choose my depth of field. When I use a prime lens, I normally stop down to 1.4 - 2.8. I want to create a shallow depth of field to bring focus on my subject and separate it from what is normally a busy background for flower photography. My average f-stop when using a prime lens is 2.8."
How to Photograph Flowers: Make Sure the Focus is on Point
Image Credit: Amber Fite. From Amber: "In Alaska, wildflowers grow everywhere during the Spring/Summer. These wild irises were no exception; incredibly beautiful!"
Having the subject of any photo in sharp focus is important, but in flower photography, the need for tack-sharp focus is often even more important.
That's because many flower photographers choose to take their photos with a macro lens, and macro lenses have very shallow depth of field.
That means that the slightest adjustment to the camera's positioning or the lens's focal point could throw the subject out of focus.
Be prepared to have to take multiple shots to get "the shot," too. Even the slightest breeze can move the flower, causing your composition to be off or the focus to be off.
To help combat motion blur due to movement, you can increase the shutter speed to freeze any movement that might occur.
For example, the image above was taken with a shutter of 1/2000 seconds at f/1.8 and an ISO of 200. That blazing fast shutter speed negated any slight movements that the flower might have made while the shutter was open.
Image Credit: Amber Fite
Another aspect of focusing is to use it in a way that creates a more abstract looking flower photo.
In the example above, you can see how it almost looks like an impressionist painting due to so much soft, blurry bokeh in the shot.
When creating shots like this, it's important that there's different colors and textures to give those out-of-focus areas some depth and interest.
In this case, the bright yellow color of the flowers contrasts beautifully with the dark green of the stems and leaves, giving the background of the photo tons of interest.
Editor's Tip: Not sure what lens to use for flower photography? Learn about the virtues of shooting with a 50mm prime lens.
Beautiful Flower Photos Require Great Lighting
Image Credit: Amber Fite. From Amber: "As gorgeous as anything is in the South, wild cornflowers are some of my favorites. They come in many different colors, but this particular wild coneflower is my favorite. Found of the side on just about any backroad in North Carolina, you will always want to have your camera ready."
It's no secret that great photos result from great lighting.
But natural light doesn't always cooperate. It might be too harsh. There might be too many shadows. Heck, it might even be too dark.
You can use a flash to help illuminate your subject, but if you do, you need to diffuse it somehow.
The light from a flash is very intense, and because of that, you run the risk of making the flower overly bright with the background overly dark.
Quick Tip From Amber: "When I photograph flowers, I prefer to photograph either in the morning or during “golden hour”. With that being said, this isn’t always possible. Some flowers will wilt during the cooler hours of the evening, so shooting mid-day is a necessity. When I shoot during mid-day with high sun, I look for flowers that have shade. I also carry a very small reflective disc (which also can double as a diffuser), to use in the event the sun is too harsh. You want to prevent sun spots, harsh light, and bad shadows that will lessen the appeal of your photograph."
You can use a flash diffuser to soften the light or even bounce the light from the flash off a reflector.
Speaking of reflectors, you can use them to bounce natural light back onto the flower, which can lighten the scene while still giving it a natural look. There are various colors of reflectors (gold, silver, white, and even black), so experiment with each color to see what gets you the best results.
Learn how to use diffusion and reflection techniques for flower photography in the video above by Tony Sweet.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes to tips for taking photos of flowers, you have to consider the usual suspect - planning ahead, nailing the focus, and finding great light.
And like any photographic pursuit, it will simply take time and practice to hone your skills to the point where you can get beautiful flower photos like those seen in this article.
For a few more tips on how to photograph flowers, check out the video above by Wex Photo Video.