Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Make Stunning Floral Images

I like to photograph flowers. In fact, I love to photograph flowers! It turns out that I'm in good photographic company.
Text & Photography By Harold Davis Published in Shooting
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
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

Use a light tent.

A light tent is a standard and inexpensive way to provide overall diffuse lighting, most often used in product photography. It can be a great starting point for lighting flower photos.

Try wabi-sabi.

Flowers are still beautiful after their first bloom. Don't throw your flowers away just because they've started to fade. Sometimes flowers in decay are more beautiful than they were originally, and if you ignore flowers in decay, you're missing a tremendous opportunity. In Japanese art, enjoyment of the beauty of something that's past its prime is called wabi-sabi, and I always look for wabi-sabi possibilities in my flower photography.

White Ranunculus: This white ranunculus was in a small pot that I bought at a local horticultural nursery for planting in my garden. To make the photo, I pruned the vegetation from the sides of the flower and then isolated it using a black velvet cloth. I shot the flower in my studio using natural light. When I was done, I removed the cloth and found a home for the plant outside.

50mm macro, eight exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1?8 sec. to 4 sec., exposures combined in Photoshop, each exposure at ƒ/32 and ISO 200, tripod-mounted

Paint sunflowers like Vincent van Gogh.

Take advantage of the free Pixel Bender filters from Adobe Labs, and use the Oil Paint filter to create flowers that look as if van Gogh had painted them. If you have Photoshop, the software is free, and you don't even have to give up an ear! Go to labs.adobe.com/technologies/pixelbenderplugin/.

Shoot flowers for black-and-white.

Flowers are inherently colorful, but their shapes, lines and forms are graceful and interesting visually. Consider setting up flower compositions that emphasize the compositional aspects of your flower photograph and are presented in monochrome.

Shoot flowers on a lightbox for transparency.

Lightboxes used for artist tracing or art presentation are available from many sources fairly inexpensively. These can be used as a backlight source for creating images of flowers where the flowers seem translucent. As I explain in my book Photographing Flowers, it works best if you shoot for a high-key result with the camera on a tripod and combine several exposures, starting with an overexposed, bright image for the background. I then "paint" the petals of the flower in using layers and layer masks in Photoshop.

Harold Davis is an award-winning professional photographer and the author of many best-selling photography books, including Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis (Focal Press). Davis is also a Moab Paper Printmaking Master. His images are widely collected and commissioned, and his popular workshops are often sold out. He lives in Berkeley, Calif., with his wife, Phyllis Davis, and their four children. You can learn more about Harold Davis and his photography at www.photoblog2.com.


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