I had never thought of photographing flowers – well at least not in the extreme as I have in the past few years – but living in Ireland gave me ample opportunity. I had neighbors that had the most gorgeous gardens that I had ever seen. Plus, I was lucky that my next door neighbor 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. I didn’t have to depend on a spritz bottle as all my “raindrops on roses” came naturally. If you live in a drier climate, have a spritz bottle handy to fake those drops. No one will ever know. Even better, sprinkle a few drops of vegetable glycerin for bigger and better drops that last longer than water.
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 mornings, 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 first and work your way to single flowers. 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, 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. You’ll find 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. Now I find myself scanning every orchid I see.
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. So, take your time and be patient.
Dane’s Lens Choices for Flower Photography
Some of these shots were taken with a 50mm Macro lens, some with a 300mm zoom lens and I also use a 18-55mm lens. You will need a zoom lens of at least 200mm to capture tree shots. For ground flowers as well as those within arm’s length, I find macro lens to produce the best results. But beginners could achieve decent results with a 18-55mm kit lens.
Why You Should Take Both Horizontal and Vertical Shots?
It is important to always take both vertical and horizontal shots. 85% percent of all photos are taken horizontally, in the landscape mode. Wonder why? Because our eyes see horizontally and all cameras design are based horizontally. I have seven CD covers to my credit mainly because I took those vertical shots. Designers like to have choice when designing covers and your job is to provide that selection. Also, 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.
The last set of all tulips were captured indoors, in my dining room, with a 18-55mm lens. 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. Notice the difference a different light gives to your flowers.
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!
Guest author: Dane of Dane Photography and Fine Art