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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!