Flowers are one of my favorite photography subjects, they have amazing colours and hues, as well as graceful curves and textures. It’s no wonder that in the Autumn, when days are shorter and the sunlight is in a short supply, very often I head to the local parks and glasshouses to photograph flowers with my macro lenses. Macro lenses are essential in this type of photography; they offer 1:1 magnification and allow focusing really close to the flower. Macro photography brings a lot of challenges but it opens up a completely new world, rich in colours and shapes not always seen with the naked eye. The very first problem I encounter when photographing flowers is light; the ever-changing light conditions and especially low light levels in the Autumn mean that a sturdy tripod is essential. As flower close-ups are all about details, perfect sharpness and correct exposure are essential. The natural light is always the best, but not the direct strong light – in an ideal world, the sky should be covered with a thin layer of clouds. There is a simple way of dealing with harsh light however – I never part with the light diffuser for my photography. This very important simple piece of equipment diffuses a portion of the light that passes through it and makes the light soft and natural.
The right choice of the background is very important. Uniform or semi-uniform backgrounds are always the best, especially if they are in the complimentary colour. If the good, natural background is not available, a simple large sheet of cardboard in light green colour can be used. If placed away from the plant, it can give the desired effect.
There is no right or wrong choice of the aperture in flower photography, it all depends on the object and our imagination, but for dreamy, ethereal effect, the shallow depth of field, f/2.8 or f/5.6 works the best.
A slight gust of wind can make the flower unsharp or soft, therefore I often use faster shutter speeds. In the extreme cases, I need to support the stem of the flower. I use a wire, from which I create a loop that fits at the bottom of the flower head or alternatively, I support the stem with some sticks.
Colours have powerful effect on our psyche and therefore can be used successfully to set the mood of the scene. Red colour is exciting and stimulating. Here, the colour itself is the main focus of the photograph, not the shape of the tulip.
By using the large aperture (the small aperture number) not only I can blur the background but also achieve a nice bokeh. Bokeh originates from the Japanese word meaning “blur” and it is represented by spectacular highlights resembling the lens’ aperture shape.
Adding droplets of water magnify the details of the rose petals and makes the picture more appealing. I use a simple sprinkler and sometimes I add a bit of sugar as the droplets stay on the petals longer.
Although I like the extreme close ups showing the texture and colour, but more general composition allows me to concentrates on the shape of the flower or stems. Shapes and patterns in flower photography are extremely important. In fact, most of the successful photographs rely on line, shape and pattern.
I use very often a small reflector, which reflects light back onto the flower, however, another type of light is excellent for flower photography – backlight. By placing the light source behind the flower, some flower petals almost glow, other become translucent and this way a very dramatic effect can be achieved.
About the author: Beata Moore is a professional photographer and writer. She has written a number of books including “The Channel Islands”, “Portrait of Wimbledon”, “The Square Mile – photographic portrait of the City”, “Cracow: City of Treasures”, “A Year in the life of the New Forest” and “A Year in the Life of the Cotswolds”.