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Capturing the perfect Flower Macro [For Beginners]

If you appreciate the subtle beauty of a freshly bloomed bud or want to preserve the memory of that bright and bold gift bouquet why not try putting your photography skills to good use and capture a delicate floral macro?

Image: Image by Hamed Saber

Image by Hamed Saber

Begin by finding the perfect specimen and if possible place it in an area with great soft light, for example in front of a window that is shielded with a sheet or net curtain. If the plant is outside either move it to a shaded location or find a way of diffusing the sun’s rays with a piece of fine material if the light is particular harsh or the sun is at a high position in the sky. Shoot with your back to the light (without blocking it) or from the side, so that the light falls gently and delicately on the flower head’s crevices and petals, effortlessly eventuating texture, colour and the intrinsic detailing. An overcast but bright day will undoubtedly harvest optimum captures, but if you need to ‘add’ extra light utilise a reflector to lift details from the shadows.

Next set the camera onto a tripod or if you are lacking one try using something as a stable substitute to support it underneath. Using something like Joby’s GorillaPod for DSLRs will be extremely useful here, especially when shooting immoveable or smaller specimens as the accessory is relatively dainty and low to the ground as it doesn’t have a restrictive centre column like a tripod does.

Image: Image by Auntie P

Image by Auntie P

In terms of glassware a macro lens or extension tube will reap stronger images, otherwise experiment with focal length you have at your disposal and use your distance to influence the composition, determine how close you can get to secure a lock. Some people prefer the simplicity of auto-focus, whereas others surmise that manual offers greater creative control, either way decide what you want in focus, lock on to it and then recompose.

If you are using a point-and-shoot device, opt for the camera’s macro mode and ensure that the flash is deactivated. DSLR or hybrid users should switch into Aperture priority and experiment with the lens’ aperture range to alter how much detail is captured. For a crisp centre and softly blurred petals or background opt for an aperture of between f1.8 and f4 depending on the strength and range of the effect you want to generate. If you’d rather keep the flower head’s details crisp use a narrower aperture such as f18 or even f22.Depending on the colour of the flower you may find you’ll need to employ exposure compensation to balance the scene.

Image: Image by Evan Leeson

Image by Evan Leeson

Stand above the flower and shoot the subject from various angles, then lower the lens in stages to the same level as the flower and shoot again, finally fall beneath the flower head and shoot up at its delicate underbelly.

Review your captures onscreen to determine what appeals to you or what you would like to develop. If you want to tweak the captures in an editing suite it is advisable to shoot in RAW so all of those vivid details and colours are naturally replicated.

If you would like to repeat the photo session at a later date, try experimenting with various lighting techniques, lenses, gels and include elements such as water for that heightened level of interest. Shooting a flower macro just after it has rained, or before snow or frost melts, can really exaggerate the specimen’s beauty and lends itself to creating a more dramatic photograph.

Further Reading on Photographing Flowers: How to Photograph Flowers and Photographing Flowers – A How-To

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Natalie Denton (nee Johnson)
Natalie Denton (nee Johnson)

Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

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