5 Top Tips for Better Plant and Flower Photography

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 It’s high summer in many parts of the world, so a great time to work on your plant and flower photography skills now that everything in the garden is lovely. The beauty of garden photography is that you don’t need too much in the way of specialist lenses or equipment, and even if you live in a high-rise apartment in the middle of a city, public parks are gardens are not usually too far away. Read on for some blooming brilliant photography tips!

1) Get the Timing Right

In this image I hadn't noticed the shaddows of grass falling on the petals and spoiling the shot
Shadows cast on the blue petals have spoiled this shot

In high summer, the light can be very harsh on a cloudless sunny day, so as with landscape photography, it makes sense to do your photography as early as possible. The light is lovely and mellow first thing, and you won’t need to use a reflector so much to reduce the impact of harsh shadows. Apart from harsh light, the other big headache is the breeze, so invest in a Wimberley Plamp to keep the flowers still, or a similar device.

2) Use a Tripod

25 astrantia major claret

While you might not want to lug your tripod around the garden, they help you to fine tune your composition and experiment with creative effects, such as shooting with a very narrow aperture for maximum depth of field. They also free-up one of your hands so you can use a reflector to bounce nice light back on to the petals. Consider using a scrim too, which softens the light and makes your subjects appear to glow.

3) Be a Perfectionist

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While it can take you longer, it’s well worth seeking out perfect specimens – or as perfect as you can find. Damaged petals, whether damaged by water or the effects of insects, will be painfully obvious if you are shooting close up, and can take ages to fix in Photoshop.

4) Shoot from a Variety of Angles

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Flower and plant photography is not just about close-ups with macro lenses. If you wish to sell your garden images, or promote them on your blog, it’s best to get a range of perspectives, from an opening ‘establishing’ shot to a very detailed close-up. It is a good idea to shoot flowerbeds at an angle when using a zoom lens; this will compress the border and make plants in the background appear further forward. If you are taking a wider angle shot of a large expanse of garden, consider adding some kind of attractive foreground interest to lead the eye in – but make sure it’s not distracting clutter like garden rubbish!

5) Choose your Lenses Carefully

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A couple of zoom lenses, covering both wide angle to medium telephoto up to 200mm, should suffice for general garden images. For flower close-ups, a 100mm to 200mm macro lens fits the bill. When using a zoom lens, try using its widest aperture, then extending the zoom to its greatest length.  This will give you the smallest depth of field possible with that lens and can lead to some very creative photographs.

Flower Photography

Flowers are without a doubt one of the most photographed subjects. It isn’t hard to see why – we are surrounded by them, and their wide range of colours, shapes, and sizes mean that you rarely have to venture far before you find one that catches your eye.
Unfortunately, many people make fundamental errors when photographing flowers. This can result in shots that lack “punch”, appearing much less interesting and vibrant than they did in person.
There are several principles that you can follow to give your flower photos more impact, capturing lots of detail and making them engaging to the viewer. By learning these guidelines, you’ll be able to spot an underwhelming photo before you capture it, and reframe the shot in a more interesting way.

Choose Your Subject

Decide what the subject of your photo is going to be – is it a single flower, a bunch, or a whole field? You will usually get a more interesting photo by shooting a single flower, or a few flowers – larger amounts tend to end up looking cluttered, with no real focal point.

Close up of a purple flower
Choose the most interesting aspect of your subject and zoom right in to capture plenty of detail. Image by Auntie P.
What is it about your flower that interests you most? It might be the head of the flower, individual petals, the leaves or something else entirely. Choose your viewpoint and composition based on this, getting in nice and close.
Don’t be afraid to crop the edges off the subject; doing so often allows you to focus the viewer’s attention even more closely on the real area of interest.
Look around to see if you can include anything else in your shot to add interest. When photographing an individual flower this might be something like a bee or spider; when shooting on a larger scale, such as an entire field, there might be an interesting building or piece of farmland machinery you can include.

Colour is Everything

In flower photography, colour is one of the most important things to include. A rich, vibrant shot will look infinitely better than one which is dull and dreary. If shooting outside, choose a day with plenty of bright, natural sunlight to really bring out the colours in your flowers.

Vibrant yellow rose
Nothing brings out the vibrant colours of a flower like bright, natural sunlight. Image by SantiMB.
Texture and detail can turn a good photo into a great one. Flowers have both in spades, but you can often enhance them by lighting your flower from the side, so that the subtle shadows really pick out the surface details.

Get Set Up

Focusing is crucial to a good flower photograph – if your shot is even slightly out of focus it will carry significantly less impact. Switch your camera to manual focusing mode and really take the time to get your flower as sharp as possible. If your camera doesn’t offer manual focusing, use macro mode so that you can keep your flower in focus even at very close range.

Himalayan Blue Poppy
Sharp focusing and a narrow depth of field will give your photograph maximum impact. Image by Evan Leeson.
Open your aperture wide to throw the background out of focus. This will draw the attention towards the flower, creating a more engaging, intimate photo.
Mounting your camera on a tripod is a must when shooting at such close range and with a narrow depth of field – even slight movements can mess up your careful preparations. With the wind blowing your flower about, the last thing you need is for your camera to be moving too.
Be mindful of shadows from your equipment or your body ruining your photo. Choose your viewpoint carefully and be aware of the sun’s movement if you plan on staying in the same place for a long time.

Wait. Then Wait Some More

Patience is a virtue when it comes to flower photography. Be prepared to spend a lot of time lying on the floor, finger poised on the shutter button, just waiting for your flower to stop swaying about long enough for you to photograph it. On mild days you hopefully won’t have to wait too long, but sometimes the wind can be a real problem.

Lots of purple flowers viewed from below

Have patience and you’ll eventually be rewarded. Image by Jim.
To help keep your flower still you may want to set up a makeshift shelter using an umbrella, or get a friend to sit in the wind’s path. Alternatively try holding the flower’s stem to stop the shaking – just be sure to keep your hand and shadow out of the shot!