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15 Flower Photography Tips for Gorgeous Results

Tips for beautiful flower photography

I love photographing flowers. It’s one of the most accessible forms of photography – after all, you can find flowers pretty much anywhere – plus it allows you to create a wide variety of images, including abstracts, close-up shots, landscape scenes, and more.

But while flowers are stunning subjects, creating great flower photography is about more than finding a nice flower and pressing the shutter button. You have to work in the right light, find a solid composition, choose the right camera settings, and post-process your files, all in pursuit of that top-notch final image.

Fortunately, I’ve been exactly where you are, and in this article, I share all the key tips and tricks I’ve learned, including:

  • The best light for flower photography
  • How to choose the right aperture
  • A simple way to create a beautiful soft-focus effect
  • My secret for amazing foregrounds
  • Much more!

So if you’re ready to capture some gorgeous flower shots? Then let’s dive right in!

The best flower photography gear

Flower photography is highly accessible, and you don’t need lots of fancy equipment to get started. As a beginner, you can work with a smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera without issue; however, as you become more experienced, you may wish to upgrade in order to enhance your shooting capabilities. Here’s what I would recommend:

An interchangeable lens camera

An interchangeable lens camera will allow you to work with a wide variety of lenses, each offering a different perspective. In other words, you can use one lens to capture wide images of flower fields, then you can switch lenses and zoom in for highly detailed close-up shots.

The best interchangeable lens cameras for flower photography offer larger sensors (full frame is best, but it’s certainly not a must-have) and higher megapixel counts (the latter is important if you plan to create large prints of your flower images).

Also look for cameras that include in-body image stabilization, a fully articulating screen, and a high-quality viewfinder. Personally, I’d recommend grabbing a mirrorless camera – the electronic viewfinder is helpful when selecting your exposure – but a DSLR works great, too.

A macro lens

Not all flower photography needs to be done at high magnifications, but a lot of the best shots do involve getting close (as I discuss below). Therefore, your main flower photography lens should ideally offer 1:1 magnification, which allows you to magnify your subject until the image on the camera sensor is life-size.

To achieve 1:1 magnifications, you’ll need a dedicated macro lens. Fortunately, these lenses are extremely sharp, and there are a handful of nice macro lenses that are relatively cheap, including some great products from third-party manufacturers like Tamron, Sigma, and Tokina.

I’d recommend picking a lens with a focal length in the 80-120mm range; it’ll let you photograph up close without needing to get millimeters from the edge of your subject, but it won’t have the heft or the price tag of a longer macro lens.

A tripod

Some flower photographers refuse to work without a tripod, while others only photograph handheld. Whether or not a tripod is right for you depends on your approach to flower photography, as well as your approach to photography more generally.

A tripod can be useful if you prefer to work slowly and deliberately. It’s also helpful if you want to shoot at high magnifications but keep the entire flower in focus (as opposed to allowing certain portions of the flower to blur in a pleasing way).

On the other hand, if you want to work more quickly and flexibly, and you don’t mind – or you specifically want – a softer focus effect where only a small portion of the flower is sharp, then ditching the tripod and photographing handheld is a better move.

The best flower photography settings

Flower photography requires precise control over your exposure settings. That’s why I recommend working in Manual mode, where you can set your aperture, ISO, and shutter speed independently. Aperture Priority mode is also a good choice if you’re not totally comfortable working in Manual.

Start by setting your ISO to its base value to keep your images as high quality as possible.

Next, choose the aperture that gives you the depth of field effect you want. Wider apertures (smaller f-numbers) create a smaller window of focus, while narrower apertures (larger f-numbers) provide a larger window of focus. Whether you prefer a softer-focus effect with artistic blur, like setting your aperture in the f/2.8 to f/5.6 range, or a sharp effect where the entire subject is crisp, like using f/8 to f/16, is up to you. And if you’re unsure, don’t hesitate to experiment and see what appeals to you.

Dial in the shutter speed value that gives you the proper exposure. Make sure it’s fast enough to ensure a sharp final image, especially at high magnifications. Typically, you’ll want at least 1/160s, but sometimes you can get away with 1/100s and faster.

If the shutter speed isn’t fast enough, you’ll need to boost it accordingly and then adjust the aperture or ISO to compensate for the reduced exposure.

One more key piece of advice: switch your lens to manual focus when working at high magnifications. It may seem strange at first, but it allows you to specify your point of focus very precisely, and you’ll get the hang of it pretty fast.

1. Photograph flowers in the right light

Did you know that overcast skies are perfect for flower photography?

It’s true. The soft light of an overcast day complements the delicate petals – plus, there are no shadows and no harsh bright spots, so you can get a nice, even exposure.

So if you’re planning a flower photoshoot, it’s often a good idea to check the weather first and aim to photograph on a cloudy day.

Flowers in soft light

You do need to be careful, however. Toward the beginning and end of a cloudy day, the light gets pretty limited, which leads to unwanted blur (especially when shooting at high magnifications). So if the skies are overcast, aim to photograph at midday, then pack up before the sky gets too dark.

Of course, cloudy weather isn’t the only time you can capture great flower photos. Clear skies at golden hour – when the sun is low in the sky – can also make for great images. The setting sun will produce warm, soft light that’ll beautifully illuminate your subject, though you will need to be careful to avoid overexposure (the combination of bright light and colorful petals can be difficult to manage).

But while clear skies can work well early and late in the day, I encourage you to actively avoid shooting flowers around noon on sunny days. The high sun will beat down on the flowers, producing unpleasant shadows that rarely look good. Whenever possible, stick to softer, more flattering light!

2. Use backlight to make your flowers glow

As I explained in the previous section, you can create gorgeous flower photos around sunrise and sunset – which means you’ll need to consider the lighting direction. In other words, does the light come from in front of your flower? Behind your flower? Off to the side of your flower?

Different lighting directions will give different effects, and while you can get beautifully detailed shots by using frontlight, and you can create wonderfully dramatic images by using sidelight, I highly recommend you try out backlight.

Yes, it’s a bit unconventional, but backlight – which you can achieve by ensuring that the flower is between you and the sun – will make translucent petals glow, like this:

backlit flower photography

The effect is gorgeous, and it’s a great way to elevate your flower photography portfolio.

Try to photograph late in the day when the sun is close to the horizon; that way, the backlight will hit your flower petals directly, plus it’ll cast a nice, warm light over the rest of your image. (You might even be able to catch some rays of light filtering through the trees!)

3. Make sure your subject is in good condition

After a good rain shower, the world outside takes on a fresh appearance that’s especially captivating for flower photography. Cloudy skies create soft, diffused light, which adds a beautiful touch to your images. But what’s even more enticing are the tiny water droplets left on the flowers.

These droplets create a sense of freshness and enhance the overall aesthetics of the flower. It’s a magical time to head out with your camera, just as the rain stops, to capture these beauties. The reflection and sparkle of water on the petals add a unique dimension to your photographs.

Some photographers prefer to carry a small spray bottle to recreate this rain effect even when it’s dry outside. It’s an optional trick that you might want to explore.

Getting up close to highlight the details of water droplets on petals can be thrilling. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to see how the light plays off the water. You might discover a whole new way to see and photograph flowers.

4. Watch out for wind

When photographing flowers, wind is your enemy. It’ll blow your subjects in every direction, which makes it annoyingly difficult to focus (and if you’re shooting with a slow shutter speed, it’ll introduce plenty of blur).

The easiest way to avoid wind? Do your photography early in the morning when the weather is still calm. And a little wind is manageable; just bring a piece of cardboard or a reflector, then hold it up next to your flower.

close-up of gerbera

If you prefer not to get up early, or if you need to take photos on a windy day, you do have a second option:

Bring your flowers inside. You don’t need a complex studio setup to get beautiful shots indoors – just put the flowers near a window and find a solid backdrop to set behind them. I photographed the flower below by taking it inside and placing it in front of a white sheet:

5. Get closer

Here’s one of the easiest ways to create stunning, unique flower photos:

Get as close as you can. In other words, don’t just settle for a nice frame from a few feet away. Instead, endeavor to fill the frame with your subject!

You can do this in a number of ways:

First, you can use a telephoto lens and zoom in on the flower. You’ll want to pay attention to the magnification ratio of the lens because some lenses just can’t focus especially close. A ratio of 1:1 is outstanding, though you’ll only find that on dedicated macro lenses – but you can still achieve good results with a ratio of 1:2, 1:4, or even 1:6. (If you’re not sure how much magnification your lens offers, you can look it up online, or you can do some tests.)

If you’re lucky, your telephoto lens will focus close, and you can use it for beautiful flower shots. But what if you can’t get as close as you’d like?

You have several choices. You can use extension tubes, which mount on your camera and let the lens focus closer. Or you can use a close-up filter, which attaches to the end of your lens and works like a magnifying glass.

tulips with beautiful background

Honestly, both of these options come with pretty significant drawbacks; extension tubes are inconvenient, while close-up filters reduce image quality. Sure, they work, and if you’re just getting started with flower photography, either method will help you take interesting close-up shots.

But if you want to really improve your images, I’d recommend a dedicated macro lens, which will let you capture intimate images without the need for accessories. These lenses can be purchased for reasonably low prices (especially if you grab a wider lens in the 40mm to 60mm range). They’ll let you get extremely close to your subject, and they tend to offer outstanding image quality, as well!

6. Try using a reflector

Here’s a quick tip:

Shaded flowers can make for some stunning photos, especially when you combine a shaded subject and a well-lit background in the early morning or late evening.

But this sun-shade effect can result in an underexposed flower (or an overexposed background) if you’re not careful. The trick here is to keep your flower relatively bright; that way, you can reduce the dynamic range of the overall scene, and your camera will have a much easier time capturing the full array of tones.

So if your subject is in the shade, use a reflector to bounce some light. You can purchase a cheap pop-up option online or simply carry a piece of white card. Simply adjust the position until you get some nice light on the flower, then snap away! (Bonus: A reflector will also make your flowers appear more vibrant!).

7. Avoid a cluttered background

In flower photography, the background can make or break the image. A uniform background can look great – whereas a cluttered, distracting background will draw the eye and prevent the viewer from appreciating your main subject.

So before you hit the shutter button, take a minute to contemplate the area behind your flower. Look through the camera viewfinder, and ask yourself:

Does my background complement the flower? Or does it distract?

If the background adds to the image – or, at the very least – doesn’t detract from it, then go ahead and capture your image. But if the background does seem even slightly distracting (e.g., there are jagged branches or unsightly patches of color behind the flower), then it’s probably a good idea to adjust your shot.

One option is to change your position until the distractions are gone. For instance, you can get down to the ground until the flower is surrounded by clear sky, or you can move slightly to the right or the left to get rid of problematic areas.

Another move, however, is to use a shallow depth of field to blur the distractions away, as I discuss in the next section:

8. Use a shallow depth of field

Shallow depth of field flower photos can look great – but what is a shallow depth of field, and how do you achieve it?

A shallow depth of field features only a sliver of sharpness. If you use the effect carefully, you can capture images that feature a sharp flower but a blurry background:

flower photography tips blue flowers with water droplets

As you can perhaps imagine, this does make nailing focus more difficult. Since the plane of sharpness is so narrow, there is very little room for error – but for most flower shooters, the beautiful effect is absolutely worth the effort.

To get a shallow depth of field, make sure to use a wide aperture (i.e., a low f-number) such as f/2.8 or f/4. (This will also allow you to use a faster shutter speed, which will increase the probability that you capture a tack-sharp shot.)

You should also aim to get as close as you can to your subject; the closer you are to the in-focus area, the stronger the background blur.

Finally, aim to increase the distance between the flower and the background. More distant backgrounds will be rendered with greater blur, and while the depth of field technically won’t change, it generally looks great. You can look for subjects that sit far in front of background elements, or you can get down low to the ground to ensure the background is composed of distant trees.

9. Keep a part of your flower sharp

If you want to master the shallow depth of field effect, it’s important that you keep part of the flower sharp so that your viewer’s eye has an anchor point. Otherwise, people won’t know where to look, and they’ll quickly dismiss the image and move on.

So do what’s necessary to keep a portion – even if it’s just a small portion – of your images crisp. If you’re shooting in good light, raise your shutter speed and focus carefully. If you’re shooting in poor light, use a tripod and a remote release to avoid camera shake, or boost your ISO as required.

Remember: Even if there doesn’t seem to be wind, flowers always move a little. It’s often a good idea to check images on your camera’s LCD. Make sure you zoom in, and if your flower isn’t sharp, try raising the shutter speed a stop or two.

Finally, check your focus. If necessary, focus manually. Make sure you’ve sharply rendered the most important parts of the flower, such as the petals and the flower center, before you move on to other subjects and compositions.

10. Change your point of view

If you’re after unique flower photos, don’t just take a standard shot. Sure, you can start with conventional angles, but once you’ve captured a few safety images, move around and try some different perspectives and focal lengths.

For instance, shoot the flower from below to capture an interesting point of view. You may get pretty muddy in the process, but if all goes well, you’ll create a beautiful image featuring a rarely-seen angle. (Getting down low will also help you frame your subject against a white, blue, or even orange sky.)

You might also try shooting down from above, getting unusually up close and personal, or zooming out for a wider environmental image. The key is to experiment as much as possible, review the results, and try again – with modifications – the next day.

Morning Glory flower

11. Try intentional camera movement for flower abstracts

As I’ve emphasized throughout this article, flower photography doesn’t always need to be about sharp and clear images. Sometimes, breaking the rules and trying something unconventional can lead to breathtaking results. One such technique is intentional camera movement (ICM).

By slowing down your shutter speed to around 1/15s and moving your camera intentionally when pressing the shutter button, you can create abstract shots filled with pure colors and interesting geometries. Side-to-side or up-and-down movements can generate different effects.

The key here is to turn off any camera or lens image stabilization, as you actually want the shake. The results can certainly be unpredictable, but that’s part of the charm. You’ll need to experiment with different types of movement and shutter speeds, and this can be a lot of fun.

Sometimes, the unexpected outcomes are the most stunning. Embrace the unpredictability, and don’t be afraid to try various approaches. You might just stumble upon an incredible shot that captures the essence of a flower in a way you never thought possible!

12. Focus through another flower

The shoot-through approach is loved by quite a few professional flower photographers, and for good reason:

It looks really, really cool, especially when you get a lot of colorful foreground blur. Like this:

flowers photographed with the shoot-through technique

But how does it work?

You simply find a flower you want to photograph, then adjust your position until another flower sits between the lens and the flower. (The closer the foreground flower is to the lens, the better the look.)

Ultimately, the secondary flower will become a blur of color, and your final image will have a more professional feel.

Make sure you pay careful attention to the position of the foreground flower – it’s important that you don’t completely overwhelm the main subject with a wash of blur. You can also experiment with different apertures and see how they modify the effect.

13. Photograph after the rain

After a good rain shower, the world outside takes on a fresh appearance that’s especially captivating for flower photography. Cloudy skies create soft, diffused light, which adds a beautiful touch to your images. But what’s even more enticing are the tiny water droplets left on the flowers.

These droplets create a sense of freshness and enhance the overall aesthetics of the flower. It’s a magical time to head out with your camera, just as the rain stops, to capture these beauties. The reflection and sparkle of water on the petals add a unique dimension to your photographs.

Some photographers prefer to carry a small spray bottle to recreate this rain effect even when it’s dry outside. It’s an optional trick that you might want to explore.

Getting up close to highlight the details of water droplets on petals can be thrilling. Experiment with different angles and perspectives to see how the light plays off the water. You might discover a whole new way to see and photograph flowers.

14. Go wide

Flower photography isn’t just about capturing the intricate details of each petal. While close-up shots have their charm, there’s a whole world of beauty waiting to be explored by going wide. It’s easy to think of flower photography solely in terms of close-up photos. But flowers look amazing from a distance, too. By going wider, you’ll discover not only the allure of a single flower but the visual harmony they create together in a scene.

You can photograph a patch of flowers to highlight the variety of colors and species within a small area. This approach creates a vibrant and lively scene. Or you can go even wider and capture a field of flowers at sunset, crafting a sort of flower landscape image that tells a more expansive story.

Even the closest-focusing macro lenses are capable of capturing beautiful wide images, but feel free to experiment with a wide-angle lens or a standard zoom like an 18-55mm kit lens if you’re aiming to capture an expansive scene. Swapping lenses can offer new perspectives, inviting you to see the world of flowers in a fresh, enchanting way!

15. Don’t forget about post-processing

Flower photos can look pretty incredible straight out of the camera, even if you shoot in RAW (which I highly recommend). But if you want the best results, you should definitely spend a bit of time processing your images.

You see, a few tweaks in editing software can dramatically improve the tones, colors, and overall feel of your shots. The particular adjustments you use will depend on your preferences and goals, but it’s often a good idea to subtly boost the saturation or vibrance for enhanced colors. You might also consider raising the shadows to bring some detail into the darker areas of your shots, dropping the highlights to recover any missing detail in the lighter areas, and boosting the contrast for some extra pop.

Once you become more familiar with flower photo editing, you can test out more dramatic color alterations, and you can play with local adjustments (where you selectively darken and lighten portions of the shot to help lead the viewer’s eye in a certain direction).

Tips to improve your flower photography: final words

Well, there you have it:

15 easy tips to take your flower photos to the next level.

Hopefully, at least one or two of the tips speaks to you – and you feel inspired to get out and start shooting! Remember that flower photography is a wonderful passion, and if you work hard enough and test out different approaches, you’re bound to get some great results.

Now over to you:

Do you have any flower photos you’re proud of? Which of these tips do you like the most? Share your thoughts (and images!) in the comments below.

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Anne McKinnell
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.

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