The ideal time of the day to do flower photography is either early morning or evening. This is the time when the light is diffused, and the shadows are softer. There’s a warm tinge to the light that enhances the beauty of these delicate subjects.
The warm light, apart from adding warmth and feel to the image, also helps in giving the subject a smooth feel. The diffused light allows the shadows to be softer and blurry, and thus maintaining the softness of the flowers.
Another aspect that favors shooting early in the day is the fact that there are higher chances of wind during the day. Morning is the time when you have the least chances of a wind blowing.
Shooting flowers when the wind is blowing is the most challenging task. Additionally, if there’s the wind, you’ll need to carry a card or something to block the wind so that photography can be pursued smoothly.
Look Out for the Dew Drops: Beautify Flower Photography
Winter mornings are lazy mornings. But there’s a prize for the photographers who wake up early and travel to the nearest parks and gardens. The dew that is formed on top of the flowers and the natural diffused lights on a cold winter morning form a beautiful combination that is sure to give your flower photography a boost.
When the flower petals are laden with dew, they make for beautiful compositions. And you can even go further – by shooting close-ups and macro and catching the reflection on dew drops.
The tip here is to get up early and not miss the full dew drops. The sunrise time is ideal because of the glow the pictures will carry. Catching the subject when lit from the back will enhance the glow on flowers as well as the dew drops.
There are three major ways of getting closer to the subject. Getting closer, though, ranks among the finest flower photography tips you will ever get. It allows you to fill the frame with the subject, thereby allowing your eyes to focus on the beauty of the subject.
This also works out to bring the details better – of the different slight hue changes of some petals and dew drops, or an insect sipping on the floral juice.
The simplest way, if you don’t have any special equipment, is to shoot as close as possible, and crop it in the post. Unless you want large prints, cropping won’t make much of an impact on the image. The other option is to use a telephoto and zoom into the subject.
There will be a compression factor that will not be good for the subject, so take proper care while zooming in and don’t overdo it.
The best way to shoot flowers, however, remains the macro. Macro means magnification. The macro mode in digital cameras allows us to go closer to the subject and fill the frame while allowing us to focus and giving sharp results.
In DSLRs, dedicated Macro lenses will enable us to do the same thing, thereby allowing us to create life-size images of the tiny objects. The details of petals, leaves, the patterns, dew, etc., are best captured using these amazing Macro lenses.
Macro lenses, however, are expensive pieces of equipment. There are workarounds to this as well. The three options to shoot without a Macro lens are extension tubes, lens reversal rings, and closeup filters. All three allow you to get closer to the subject but come at a cost.
Fit themselves between the lens and the body, the longer the extension tube, the more is the magnification. The depth of field after using an extension tube is very shallow, and the light that reaches the sensor is also less. The longer the extension tube, the lesser the light that enters the sensor.
An extension tube may be with or without contacts. If it is without contacts, you will have to set aperture once only, and can’t change in between unless you have a manual lens.
Lens Reversal Rings
Lens reversal rings also have a very shallow depth of field, and you also lose the contacts. Hence you cannot change the aperture of the lens while it is reversed – similar to an extension tube without contacts. Closeup filters are magnification filters that are used like normal filters.
They are an easy alternative to the contacts between the lens and body remain intact. However, they can harm the quality of the image.
The quality of the glass in the filter has to match the quality of the glass in the lens. This means that you will need an extremely high-quality filter to get the same quality images. Otherwise, the closer you get and the more filters you add, the lower will be the image quality.
Any closeup photography, especially when using a macro lens or other means for magnification, requires you to rely on manual focus instead of the camera’s auto-focus system.
In the case of the macro lens, you can go close and compose a shot, and then use the focus ring to focus on the subject or the main part of the subject.
Close up Flower Photography – Close-up Filter
In the case of close-up filters, the same process is followed, which helps in creating images of accurate sharpness. The problem with auto-focus is that we are dealing with an extremely delicate subject, and in macro, the depth of field is shallow. Using an auto-focus can throw off the focus, and even a slight shift can spoil the image in such cases.
In case you are using extension tubes or a reversal ring, the only way to focus is to move the camera. The lens focus ring won’t help much.
Therefore, when you are set with the correct lens and reversal system, or the correct set of extension tubes, get close to the subject and then move to and fro to get the accurate focus.
In case you are using extension tubes that have contacts, you may be able to use lens rings and auto-focus, but it is always better to do flower photography with manual focus.
Make the Background Less Distracting
The golden rule of any form of photography is to avoid a cluttered background. It becomes more apparent in the case of flowers because there are so many natural distractions when shooting flowers. It becomes more challenging to shoot because of the complexities involved while shooting. Therefore, careful consideration must be given to the background.
One of the ways to avoid background clutter is by using black cards. Putting them behind the subject allows photographers to create beautiful flower images that have no distractions, and all focus on the subject.
You can even work some low-key concepts when doing so. The other way of managing it is shooting from a slightly lower angle or shooting the tallest flower – or the one with the clear background.
Another way of shooting them is to pluck the flowers out and shoot them in the studio using natural lights or strobe lights. This allows you to create many concepts while being in control of everything.
You can even plant the seeds of your favorite flowers, and shoot them with plants in the studio.
Shallow Depth of Field is the Key
Shallow depth of field with the focus in the right part of the image allows a natural blurring of the subject and separates the item from the background.
In such cases, you may not have to worry as much about the background as the finer details will be blurred automatically. Also, the softness of the flowers is further beautified by giving it a milkier feel to the entire image.
When shooting macro, the shallow depth of field will automatically come, and you will find it hard to control the focus areas. Even while shooting at the longer ranges of the telephoto, the shallow depth of field becomes apparent as the compression effect increases.
Play with Foreground Elements
Apart from the background blurring, shallow depth of field allows us to create interesting foreground blurs. The picture ideally consists of three parts – foreground, subject, and background.
While all of our work with subject and background, the picture that has all the three parts is the one that shines brighter than the rest of the images.
Using a shallow depth of field to advantage, we can use foreground elements that will be blurred out when we focus on the flowers.
Shooting through other flowers, or through the foliage can have that softly blurred backgrounds that help us get the eyes of the viewers directed directly to the subject.
Use External Flash and Reflectors to Pop the Flowers
While shooting macro, the aperture may be well closed. This also means that the light entering the camera will be very less. In the case of lens reversal rings and extension tubes, the light entering the lens is even lesser.
This can result in dark images, or too grainy images if you boost the ISO. Adding a reflector to the scene may drastically improve the light, especially when you are shooting the backlit subject.
Another way is to use a flash by diffusing it. When getting close to the subjects, you can put the flash on the camera, and use a white sheet as a diffuser that will lend a smooth, natural light to the subject.
The ring light is one of the flashes that is built, especially for macro photography. The flash is circular and is built so that it can be mounted around the lens. While shooting macro, we are often very close to the subject.
Ring light or ring flash allows us to fill in the light during such circumstances and provides an even illumination around the subject – creating perfect macro pictures. It is exceptionally useful in flower photography.
Use a Tripod or Gorilla Pod and Macro Rails for Flower Photography
Using a tripod or gorilla pod allows us to have better stability. Since you will be required to move in and out for focusing, adding macro rails on the tripod or gorilla pod will allow smooth function, as also, will provide the stability.
This will lend a sharper touch to the images. You can also do focus stacking efficiently using macro rails as you can move the camera in the same increments with ease.
Focus stacking allows you to combine the focus portions of several images with similar compositions and different focus areas. Because of the very shallow depth of field that is present in macro images, you may sometimes require focus stacking to produce a sharper image.
This is done by shooting a series of images that are the same or very similar compositions but different in focus points.
Shooting flower photography is an art that requires patience and persistence. Often, you will have many images, out of which very few would be good.
But it is a rewarding experience regarding the result, and being close to nature is another advantage that flower photography provides to us.
I started the road of photography, repairing some film cameras. But soon I've realised that I need some knowledge on how the photos are formed inside the camera. This road is tougher than I thought, but life is always a learning experience, and I am hoping that you could join me in this wonderful world of photography.
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