Of all the subjects that I enjoy photographing the most, I would put flowers near the top of my list. There is something so amazing about their form and beauty. However, as far as a choice of photo subject, I do realize they are very popular and have been done and over-done. So what will make my photo stand out from that of someone else?
One of the biggest keys to a good flower photo is always light. Study the light the flower is in. Is it direct sunlight or heavy shade? And what direction is the light coming from? Is it from the front, the side, or backlit? Wrong shadows can destroy a flower photograph.
If the flower is in direct sunlight, a good way to diffuse (scatter) the light is by using a sheet of white tissue paper. Have a friend hold the paper and block the direct light on the flower, or prop the paper up on a nearby object. I have even been known to hang it from a tree. You can also use your own body, or that of a friend to throw a shadow. But be careful to not overdo it and remove the light altogether! The resulting image could be too flat.
Light that comes from behind requires more creativity, but backlighting can be used to your advantage. It will darken and effectively remove distracting background objects from the photo. One good example of this is the walls of buildings. Additionally side lighting will display more of the texture and form of the flower. Often I find myself using both backlighting and side lighting together. In this lily photo, I used backlight to throw shadows on the faded blossom in the background and side light to spotlight the bell-like shape of the flower. What you cannot see is the siding of my house in the background!
The other key to a good flower photograph is composition. I cannot stress enough the need to study and learn photography composition in general, but for photographing flowers it will “make or break” the photo. Your choice of composition will always depend on the shape of the flower. Long tubular flowers work better in vertical format. Rounder shapes tend towards horizontal images. Choice of angle is very important. Usually, your lens should be at the level of the flower. Don’t photograph every flower while standing above it. Crouch down or raise your lens up. Even an upward angle can create a pleasing image. And be sure to walk around the flower, paying attention to your foreground and background, before you settle on a position.
Wild PlumLastly, you must make the correct choice for depth of field. I tend to prefer a larger aperture, unless photographing a group or field of flowers. Give the flower some space around it and always try to include foliage. Foliage aids in identification, especially with wildflowers, and it gives the flower a place. In other words, it prevents it from looking like it is in “outer space” by itself. Another idea is to place identical flowers out-of-focus in the background or foreground. This gives the viewer a feel for the setting.
Good photographs always come down to good decisions. For photographing flowers, light, composition, and depth of field are the three biggest decisions you will make. By making correct choices, you will have an interesting image that makes people stare, instead of just another in a crowded field of flower photographs!
Shades of Sherbet, Hibiscus
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.