Home How-To Shooting Make Stunning Floral Images
Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Make Stunning Floral Images

Go macro to explore the beautiful details andvarieties of flowers

Cherry Blossom Special: The weather was windy with some light rain. At the same time, there was a great deal of diffuse brightness from the sun coming through the clouds. I knew that I wouldn't be able to create a close-up image with a great deal of depth of field. In other words, I couldn't expect the image to be sharp from front to back. So in this image, I focused on the anthers—the portion of the stamen that provides pollen. The in-focus anthers stick out from the flower petals and core; therefore, the flower itself and the waterdrops are slightly out of focus.

105mm macro, 1⁄100 sec. at ƒ/10 and ISO 200, tripod-mounted

I like to photograph flowers. In fact, I love to photograph flowers! It turns out that I'm in good photographic company. Flowers are a subject that many people want to photograph. However, photographers often don't know how to approach flowers and macros in a creative way that will show the true beauty of their floral models.

Some folks are worried about photographing flowers because they're concerned their images will be cliché. I'm here to tell you: It doesn't have to be that way. Flowers are riotously beautiful. They're also the epitome of variety in terms of colors, shapes and forms. You don't need a model release to photograph a flower, and if you follow these tips, an entire arena of creative possibilities will open for you in the world of a single flower.

Photograph a flower from an unusual angle. We're used to seeing flowers from the front, straight on. In fact, that's the way the creatures most important to flowers, their pollinators, usually see them. But often, the most interesting floral shapes occur when a flower is viewed in profile rather than head-on. Take the time to really study a flower before you start photographing it. You may be surprised at the many possibilities that aren't initially apparent.

Alstroemeria Medley: I photographed this arrangement of Alstroemerias (Peruvian lilies) straight down on a light box, then used a series of LAB color adjustments in Photoshop to create the painterly effect you see here.

85mm macro, seven exposures combined in Photoshop, exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1⁄4 sec. to 5 sec., each exposure at ƒ/64 and ISO 200, tripod-mounted

Control the areas of focus. When looking at a photo, the viewer tends to first be attracted to the color and then to the areas in the photo that are in focus. So the parts of the flower that are in focus are very important to your overall composition. Keep this in mind as you control selective focus through your use of aperture and with camera positioning. The more parallel the camera is to the plane of focus, the less depth-of-field problems you'll have.

If you don't have a macro lens, improvise by using an extension tube. An extension tube is a relatively inexpensive tube that fits between your lens and the camera. Using an extension tube makes most lenses able to focus closer and produces images that have a greater effective magnification. I've created very good professional-quality macro photos of flowers using extension tubes and a zoom lens instead of a macro lens.

Keep your photos sharp by using a tripod. I use a tripod for most of my macro flower photography. You want a tripod model that lets you maneuver easily close to the flower and a ballhead for variable camera positioning. Be sure to use a remote release with the tripod (or use the self-timer) rather than pressing the shutter yourself to avoid causing camera movement. In most cases, image stabilization should be turned off when the camera is on a tripod. Locking up your mirror can add significant sharpness at shutter speeds between 1⁄60 sec. and 2 sec.


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