10 Tips for Improving Your Flower Photos - Digital Photography School
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10 Tips for Improving Your Flower Photos

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Spring is here!

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who have been hunkered down for winter, enduring the rain and the snow, the time has finally come to get outside and enjoy some long awaited sunshine.

As the flowers start to emerge from the soil, all the neighbours begin emerging from their houses with gardening tools in hand. I, on the other hand, have my camera in hand ready to capture the spring flowers and I hope you do too!

Here are 10 tips that will help you make the most of your flower photography this spring.

1. Photograph flowers on an overcast day

Okay, not every day in spring is a sunshiny blue sky day. But that’s okay because the white sky days are perfect for photographing flowers.

The soft even light of an overcast day compliments the delicacy of the flowers and there are no shadows and no harsh bright spots, which makes it easier to get a good exposure.

Flowers in soft light by Anne McKinnell

2. Backlight will make your flowers glow

Another type of light that is excellent for flower photography is backlight. Backlight happens when the sun is directly in front of you lighting your flower from behind. Because flower petals are translucent, backlight makes flowers appear to glow.

Try to capture backlit flowers late in the day when the sun is close to the horizon which will cast nice warm light on the rest of your image too. You might even be able to catch some rays of light filtering through the trees.

Backlit flowers by Anne McKinnell

3. Watch out for wind

When it comes to photographing flowers, wind is your enemy. The easiest way to avoid it is to do your photography early in the morning when there is less chance of wind. If there is a bit of wind, you can use a piece of cardboard or your reflector to create a block.

Your other option is to bring a flower inside. I photographed the flower below by taking it inside and placing it in front of a white sheet.

Gerbera by Anne McKinnell

4. Get closer

There are a number of ways to go about making the close up images of flowers we all love.

First, you can use a telephoto lens and zoom in to the flower. In this case, make sure you take note of the minimum focussing distance of the lens. This is usually marked on the outside of the lens. For example, my 70-300mm telephoto lens has a minimum focusing distance of 1.5 meters (or 5 feet). It simply will not focus on anything closer.

There are a couple of solutions for getting around the minimum focussing distance problem. One is to use extension tubes which are hollow tubes that you place between the camera and the lens. Essentially the tubes move the lens farther away from the camera’s sensor which allows the lens to focus on closer objects. The other solution is to use a close-up filter which works like a magnifying glass and attaches to the end of your lens.

Finally, you can use a dedicated macro lens which has the ability to focus on objects that are close to the end of the lens.

Spring Tulips by Anne McKinnell

5. Use a reflector

If your subject is in the shade, you can use a reflector to bounce some light back towards your subject and make the flower more vibrant.

6. Avoid a cluttered background

As with every photograph, the background can make or break the image. Try to change your position so that there is nothing distracting behind your flower.

7. Use a shallow depth of field

Shallow depth of field is when only part of the image is sharp and the rest is soft and out-of-focus. You can achieve this by using a wide aperture (low aperture number) such as f/4 or f/2.8. The effect is even more pronounced if you are using a telephoto lens with a wide aperture.

Flowers and water drops by Anne McKinnell

8. Make it sharp

Even if you are using a shallow depth of field, it is essential that at least part of the flower is sharp. Use a tripod, a cable release or your camera’s two second timer, and the mirror lock up function for the best results.

Remember that even if there doesn’t appear to be much wind, flowers always move. If your flower isn’t sharp, try using a faster shutter speed.

Finally, check your focus and if necessary use manual focus to ensure the camera is focussed on the most important part of the subject.

9. Change your point of view

Move around and try some different angles for more interesting images. Try photographing the flower from behind or underneath to capture a point of view that is different from what we see from a standing perspective.

Behind the flower by Anne McKinnell

10. Focus through another flower

One technique I love is focussing through another flower. Remember how I said in tip #4 that your lens has a minimum focussing distance? You can use that to your advantage! Try positioning yourself so that another flower is in front of your main subject and very close to the end of your lens. The secondary flower will become a blur of colour and your final image will have a more abstract feel.

Flowers using the shoot through technique by Anne McKinnell

If your camera has been gathering dust this winter, now is the perfect time to get yourself and your camera outside to enjoy the sunshine and the flowers and make some beautiful images!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Anne McKinnell is a photographer, writer and nomad. She lives in an RV and travels around North America photographing beautiful places and writing about travel, photography, and how changing your life is not as scary as it seems. You can read about her adventures on her blog and be sure to check out her free photography eBooks.

  • Faith Jones

    I very much enjoy taking pictures of flowers! I use a Sony Alpha 55a.

  • Doron Hazan

    Greatt tips, thank you
    http://Www.picshare.co.il

Some Older Comments

  • Wayne Huelskoetter May 21, 2013 01:10 am

    Great article. I just posted a link to the article on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/PictoColor.
    Thanks.
    wayne

  • Ashiq April 30, 2013 06:43 pm

    Great tips for an enthusiastic beginner. Thanks

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ashiqpm/7988561843/in/photostream

  • Lillian April 22, 2013 08:55 am

    It looks like everyone above has already expressed my thoughts, so I just want to add my thanks! I will be saving these tips for flowers, but good advice for photography in general.

  • Sita April 14, 2013 02:58 pm

    Wow useful tips!
    will definitely keep these in mind!

    Photography: http://preciouss2photo.blogspot.com/
    Lifestyle & Mis: http://sprinkleorainbow.wordpress.com/

  • Keith April 12, 2013 01:26 am

    Thank you for getting my juices flowing again. All 10 tips now in my notebook. Cant wait to get out. Finding it hard to know what to photograph at the moment. I follow you on Twitter and always find your travels very interesting.

  • Margaret April 5, 2013 07:53 am

    First time viewing and loved your photos and 10 tips. I have just taken up photography again with my husband, after many years away from it.

    I love gardening, but I can see that this year is going to be a major challenge... do I garden, or do I take pictures? I think it is probably going to be a lot of both. I am so looking forward to this, after getting a new camera for Christmas, which I am having fun learning.

    My husband and I have also joined a "fitness and photography" group and head out every week to different locations, photographing anything in sight.

  • Anil April 3, 2013 04:04 pm

    Very useful tips Anne for a novice like me in flower photography.

  • Ian Steele April 1, 2013 10:46 pm

    Great article, I would like to add one other aspect of photographing flowers and that is "Insects"

    A flower with a Bee / Butterfly / Ant etc comes alive, usally though these photos need to be taken in good light on a fast setting to capture the insect without blur.

  • thulasi March 31, 2013 07:13 pm

    i love ur articlei gained some knowledge about shooting flowers

  • marius2die4 March 30, 2013 05:06 am

    Good article and nice example!
    Some of mine pics:
    http://marius-fotografie.blogspot.ro/2013/02/hepatica-nobilis-iii.html

  • John Henry March 30, 2013 01:45 am

    Always like to see different perspectives. All are good, however I need to use the garden tools ahead of the camera. Makes for better photo's.

  • Carl Moses March 29, 2013 11:32 am

    Thank you so much for your article looking forward to experimenting with the concepts

  • Rich Herrmann March 29, 2013 07:54 am

    Thank you for the awesome article! You have some fantastic photos. Really looking forward to spring now!

  • Rolf Strickland March 29, 2013 03:27 am

    Thanks for the great tips. My favorites are #2 & #3. Most of our flowers are tall & willowy so wind is always a problem. Early morning is always best for little or no wind. I'm making a photo journal of all the wildflowers in our area and I'm always looking for tips to help this project.

  • Ceci March 28, 2013 09:46 pm

    Excellent suggestions and a timely article. Now, if only our snow would leave so I could actually SEE flowers and get a chance to experiment.

  • Nimisha March 28, 2013 05:02 am

    Thanks Anne for doing this service. May I share this with my FB Garden Gala group? We love posting photos of flowers and nature shots...the tips here will be most beneficial to all.

  • raghavendra March 27, 2013 05:20 pm

    Love this tips especially watching the wind. Have to learn a lot from this tips

    http://raghavendra-mobilephotography.blogspot.com/2012/04/beautiful-lily-flower-in-pond.html

  • Elena March 27, 2013 02:12 pm

    Flowers are one of my favorite things to photograph. I have to say I love the idea of photographing through another flower - never tried that on purpose before, and the others will be a great help as well.

  • Maria March 27, 2013 10:16 am

    The tip about overcast days is awesome. I actually don't mind them and especially after a rain, because it seems to me all the colors are deeper, richer. Now I read this post and see that there's something to that. Thnx!

  • Anne McKinnell March 27, 2013 09:42 am

    Thank you all so much for your kind comments!

    @UpbeatBrain I like to use a telephoto which helps me get the shallow depth of field that I like. I use a 70-300mm. But if I could pick any lens that I want (not out of the ones I own) I might pick a prime lens like a 300mm or something like that.

    @jdronan No, it's from the sprinkler.

  • Jdronan March 27, 2013 05:40 am

    Great tips and reminders. We're the dew drops in the one illustration with a mister and glycerin ?

  • edwin March 27, 2013 03:58 am

    Very nice ....

  • Mridula March 27, 2013 01:15 am

    Loved your pics and I love flowers in general. I am experimenting with shallow DOF but need to improve a lot.

    http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/

  • Tom Bruce March 26, 2013 11:46 pm

    Great article and great tips. Roll on spring. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos.

  • UpbeatBrain March 26, 2013 09:43 pm

    Hi Anne! I'm just getting back into photography after decades of only puttering around with it, and I love close-up images of flowers. Your ideas will really come in handy. If you had to use one lens for flower photography, what would you pick?

  • Richard Taylor March 26, 2013 08:25 pm

    Good series, and examples. Thanks

  • Kishan March 26, 2013 07:09 pm

    Nice article. I especially love the tips on using backlit flowers and focusing through another flower. I would not go for #3 bringing the flower home as it interferes with the natural beauty.

    Following are some of my shots of flowers..
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/76601665@N00/7844627700/in/set-72157627251924873
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/76601665@N00/7844625864/in/set-72157627251924873
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/76601665@N00/6017359155/in/set-72157627251924873
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/76601665@N00/8520404551/in/photostream

  • Jeff E Jensen March 26, 2013 02:50 pm

    I'm so ready for spring to get here. I'm looking forward to shooting some flowers this spring. We are starting to see a few early bloomers around here.

    http://jeffejensen.blogspot.com/2013/03/spring.html

  • Shannon March 26, 2013 12:32 pm

    Thank you Anne for some really great tips! I love photographing flowers and always really look forward to spring. I also very much enjoyed your images.

  • Scottc March 26, 2013 10:25 am

    Timely article, great tips, and cool photos! This write-up gets me in the Spring spirit!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/lendog64/7810551984/

  • Brianne Coelho March 26, 2013 09:05 am

    I liked #2 and #10 the most. I never thought of having the foreground flower out of focus, very nice juxtaposition. And catching the light rays tip makes the translucent flowers even better. Thanks for the tips.

  • Mary March 26, 2013 02:39 am

    I enjoy 9 and 10 the most when photographing flowers. Actually 9 works for most subjects. Photography is about finding angles you don't normally see.


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