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It’s not uncommon for nature and flower photographers to keep taking the same old picture of different plants and flowers. However, flexing your creative muscles and pulling yourself out of that rut isn’t all that difficult to do. Just remember, flower and garden photography is essentially another form of portraiture; most of the same lighting rules will apply.
Pack Your Bags – Macro photography is all the rage right now and rightly so, super close up shots of intricate flowers look awesome. But if an expensive 1:1 macro lens is out of your budget, a good quality 17-55mm or 24-70mm lens is usually more than enough to get the job done. A basic strobe makes for an excellent fill light which can eliminate shadows and really bring the photograph to life. Be sure to throw in a diffuser to prevent unwanted reflections on the plants. Carry a small sheet of white poster board and a spray bottle of water in your bag. You can use the board as a makeshift light reflector or as a backdrop to eliminate distractions. Mist the plant with water to create tiny droplets of water on the petals, leaves, or stem of the plants to give it a dew covered look.
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Life Cycle – It’s easy to dismiss wilting or dead plants because they don’t exhibit immediate natural beauty like their thriving counterparts, but don’t let that dismay you from photographing them—they can make great subjects! On the opposite end of the spectrum, seeds, too, can make for compelling images, yet are rarely photographed. Many plant photographers are able to benefit from a photography project in which they document a plant's life from germination through decomposition. It will force you to think outside the box and find that the beauty of plant does not exist solely in its flower.
Depth of Field – Let us not forget that depth of field is a creative tool. Take a look at some great macro shots of flowers and you’ll begin to see how important it is to understand, not only how depth of field works, but how it works specifically with the lens you are shooting through. In other words, know your equipment. This rule doesn’t apply to just macro photography either, when photographing plants and flowers, proper depth of field can make a huge difference. Use it to single out certain areas of the frame which you feel are most important to the image as a whole.
Don’t Forget The Little Guy – It’s bound to happen; you get in close to photograph a flower and out flies a creepy looking insect you’re positive is going to attack you. Before you start swatting and flapping your arms in the air in attempt to thwart the poor little guy, take a moment to make sure the creature is actually interested in having you for lunch. Chances are he’s more interested in the sweet nectar and pollen from the flowers than you and your camera. Of course, this is one of those areas where you really must rely on your best judgment because sometimes they do indeed feel compelled to take chunks out of humans, but if they are just buzzing about collecting pollen, use them to your advantage and include them in some of your shots—you’ll probably be glad you did. Insects such as bees and butterflies play important roles in the life cycle of plants and often times have striking color and texture that will benefit your photography as well.
Look for Angles – Lastly, it’s natural to want to shoot a beautiful flower head on, but do a 360 around the plant and look at it from above and below when possible. Pay close attention to how the light changes the plants appearance from the different perspectives and choose the best light, it won’t always be the easiest angle to shoot from, but then again, many of the best photographs are the result of some painstaking measures! Be sure to share your best flower and garden shots with us in the comments below!
Tiffany Mueller is a professional music and fine art photographer. Published in various publications including magazines, art journals, as well as photography books. Tiffany has been fortunate enough to have been in a perpetual state of travel since her youth and is currently working on a 50-states project. You can keep up with Tiffany via Twitter or on her personal blog, Life Is Unabridged.