I had never thought of photographing flowers – well at least not in the extreme as I have in the past few years, but moving to Ireland gave me ample opportunity. I had neighbors that had the most gorgeous gardens that I had ever seen and I was lucky when the neighbor right next to me moved his potato plants into the back yard and planted 30 rose bushes right next to my driveway just for me to shoot.
I began photographing in the sunlight – in overcast weather – and naturally when an Irish mist covered the west coast and when the downpours saturated the country. All I had to do was climb the wall next door and hang over the fleur-de- lis fence to capture the most magnificent rose photos in all kinds of weather and light. I didn’t have to depend on a spritz bottle – all my “raindrops on roses” came naturally.
Flower photography can be elusive – you either get it – or you end up with nothing but snapshots the same as everyone else. Floral photography needs to have light – and shadows to make the textures stand out. Red, yellow and green will literally bleach out in direct sunlight – overcast days, early morning, evening sunlight and shadows are best – the same as with any other photography. Right after a rainfall you can capture those wonderful raindrops before the water starts destroying the petals.
From a Full Garden Shot to a Single Flower Photo
It is also imperative to watch what is in the background. Gardens can lend you eye-popping shots – or you can end up with a muddled up mess with all sorts of background distractions. As I tell all my students – take the full garden shot. Working with Dromoland Castle – they needed their full garden shots for their brochures. So always start with the total landscape photo – then move up to groupings of flowers – i.e. tulips, gladiolas, hydrangeas, and peonies. Then start singling out your combinations in the separate categories. Remember odd numbers work best – so find 3 stems of gladiolas to photograph – then work up to one stem – then get down into three flowers – one flower and then finally inside into the pistil and stamens.
Finding a Place to Take Flower Photos
One place to find wonderful photographs to take is your local outdoor garden shop – ask ahead of time when they water all their plants. I found it was usually around 4 or 5:00 in the evening before they closed. Always ask if they would mind if you came in and photographed during that time or early in the morning when they open. Ample opportunity in the morning glow and waning sunlight in the evening make it ideal times for those brilliant shots.
Don’t overlook the opportunity to also photograph cut flowers in your home. Remember to get up close and personal. I would have never found the bird of prey in the orchid had I not been doing macro photography – I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it. I find myself scanning every orchid I see and I have noticed many orchids have the bird in it – the wings and talons are all there.
Photographing blossoms on trees is not as easy – the photo of the magnolia blossoms in the below combination of flowers took many tries and at least a half an hour scouting out the tree in the park in Zagreb, Croatia looking for combinations that worked.
Dane’s Lens Choices for Flower Photography
Some of these shots were taken with my 50mm Macro lens – some with my 300mm lens (both of mine are presently not focusing) so in the recent ones I have used my 18-55mm lens. You will need a zoom lens of at least 200mm to capture tree shots – anything on the ground or within arm’s length – either a macro lens or, as I stated, I have been using my normal 18-55mm lens.
Why You Should Take Both Horizontal and Vertical Shots?
Always take both vertical and horizontal shots. Eighty-five percent of all photos are taken horizontally in the landscape mode. Why? Because we see horizontally and all cameras design are based horizontally. By taking vertical photos of flowers you cut out all the background clutter and you move in closer so the flower fills out the frame. I have seven CD covers to my credit and my lotus blossoms are on two of them because I took those vertical shots. You can find them on Amazon.com, these are all my photos:
A Few Final Tips…
The last set of all tulips were captured right here in my dining room with my 18-55mm lens. The storms had been nonstop for three weeks – so I brought the flowers inside. Note those with the ambient light shining through the petals giving a glowing transparency to them – the others were taken with direct light on them or with flash – which turns the petals opaque. Each individual flower is different in makeup. Look for combinations and patterns in the petals, pistils, and stamens. Try different angles – take shots from above – below – to the side and from the back. By bringing the flowers inside I have been able to cut out garden background – plus each day as the petals open there is a new configuration to photograph on each flower.
The last single flower is one of the tulips I brought inside – and as it started to decline the transparency of the edges turned into a beautiful satin effect. When photographing any type of wildlife such as this use a shallow depth of field for close-ups to blur out the background. And above all appreciate overcast days that will increase the color saturation in your images.
Enjoy capturing the beauty of summer.