One of the most consistently popular subject choices among photographers are flowers. In fact flower photography is also the subject of the most popular thread in our own forum. So we thought it was time to share some best practices for getting great photographs of this wonderful subject.
1) Get Closer – This is a tip that applies to flower photography as much as it does to most photographic subjects. Filling the frame with your subject will produce consistently better images than standing back to get “overall” shots.
2) Even Lighting – In most situations you are going to want to make sure the lighting is even across your shot. This means that cloudy days are great for shooting flowers. So are afternoons and mornings. Shooting in midday sun will often blow out the colors in your images and give you unwanted harsh shadows. There are one or two exceptions to this guideline such as getting back-lighting on a flower, but generally even lighting is the way to go.
3) Depth of Field – In general you will want to shoot with a wide open aperture so that your background is out of focus and your flower in crisp focus. You can even use the macro setting on most cameras which, as luck would have it, is usually indicated with an image of a flower! Just remember that in some situations, such as when you are close but want every part of the flower in focus or when you have several flowers that you want in focus, you may need to close your aperture.
4) Steady Your Camera – Shooting close up can present problems with camera shake. You can also have problems if you are shooting with a closed aperture. The easy way to avoid any potential problems is to take a tripod or make sure your camera is stable. Check out our guide to camera stabilization for more information on that.
5) Get Down Low – Don't just stand up and take a shot of the face of the flower. While that can work, you are still more likely to get a better image by getting on the same level as the flower and getting some interesting background into your shot. You can also look for other colors that contrast with the color of your flower. Basic knowledge of the color wheel can help here so you can pick out opposite and complementary color backgrounds for your flower such as the yellow on blue that works nicely in the flower below.
6) Composition – There are many composition guidelines that work wonderfully for flowers such as the Golden Section and the rule of thirds. Even if you want to break these rules, it's best that you know them well first. Also don't ignore the potential for using flowers in a negative space composition such as the example below.
7) Get Out of the Wind – This is probably one of the biggest challenge for flower photographers. If a flower is dancing all over the place due to windy conditions, it forces you to change your camera settings when you may not want to. Many people get up eraly when the wind is least likely to be blowing so that they can shoot in more suitable conditions to control their shot.
Flowers really present the photographer with a unique opportunity for control in a natural environment. If you take a bit of care with your shooting choices and think about things before you press the shutter release, you can really get the exact shot that you want in a way that is difficult to emulate in most outdoor shooting situations. Best of all, photographing flowers is just a heap of fun.