How to Get Great Flower Photographs with a Telephoto Lens


Summer flowers, winter flowers, fall berries and the foliage in between bring endless photographic opportunities. With flowers, we are quick to pull out our macro and close range lenses. Instead of switching your lenses back to a macro, leave that lens on the next time you're planning to do flower photography!

We'll explore flower and foliage images taken with telephoto lenses along with a few considerations to bring out your subject. These include:

  1. Distance – subject & background
  2. Subject isolation
  3. Depth of field
  4. Weather elements

1. Distance

Distance is a critical element in separating the subject from the background with a telephoto. This is accomplished by 1) minimizing the distance between the camera and subject and 2) maximizing distance between the subject and the background.

The cannonball flower below was taken with a 150-600mm Tamron. I was fairly close to the flower. The trees and deep green foliage from the thicket in the distance is softened in the background.

2. Image Isolation

A telephoto lens isolates and separates your subject.

The bright magenta flower was moving slightly in the Texas breeze. The garden's bright green foliage in the background contrasted with the rich magenta. The combination of the shallow depth of field, backlighting and overall bright conditions allowed the flexibility of shooting hand-held with my Nikon 70-200mm with a 1.4III teleconverter.

3. Depth of Field

When photographing flowers with a telephoto, shooting with a big aperture (low f/stop number) creates separation. Different f/stops will also produce different results depending on the size of the subject and surrounding area. The columbine flowers below were taken with a 70-200 2.8 with a 1.4III teleconverter. They were taken at a distance from the camera and the background was close to the subject.

The shallow depth of field was combined with the subject being close to the background versus the camera. As a result, the background's details were more visible than the example in #1 above.

4. Elements

Rain and moisture brings saturated colors and water droplets. Wind creates soft blurs. Snow and winter conditions bring frost covered leaves.


Sheen's Nature Photography

Take advantage of what nature provides with telephoto lenses in addition to your close up lenses.

Some More Resources on Flower Photography

About Author

Sheen Watkins is a conservationist, wildlife photographer, instructor, author and photography writer. You can follow her photography on Facebook, Instagram and her website.

Very interesting. Will a 180mm macro work just as well? The beast weighs a lot but just a little bit less than my 70 – 200mm telephoto.

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