You don’t have to be a botanist to enjoy pictures of ferns. The ancient plants are strikingly beautiful and a wonder to photograph.
From Anna Atkins’ beautiful 19th-century photograms and Karl Blossfeldt’s botanical studies, to contemporary digital pictures of ferns by modern shooters, many amateur up through famous photographers have been seduced by the alluring magnificence of ferns.
The beautiful spirals and patterns of a newly unfolding fern can also be found in other areas of the natural world, such as the spiral of a nautilus shell.
These spiral patterns are also reflected in the golden mean – and these in turn are referenced in the basic principles of photo composition that we all use in our everyday photography.
Good fern specimens can be found just about anywhere, but by far the best place to start looking for them is in shady, moist woodland landscapes.
As with all good plant photography, you will need to get to know your subject well and look for angles and compositions that reveal its true character.
Here, we’ll show you some great techniques that will help you capture striking pictures of ferns for yourself.
Get it right in-camera
Use a tripod and cable release to avoid camera shake. A macro lens will enable you to get up close and it’ll be easier to focus in Manual mode. Select a wide aperture (f/2.8) to blur the background, and shoot in raw.
Control the light
To take our images, we used a home-made reflector (a piece of white card covered in foil) to bounce what light there was onto the subject. An off-camera flash connected via a cable can also be effective.
In the digital darkroom
We shot in raw format to maximise the image quality. We worked hard to create a good file, so there wasn’t too much post-processing. Using Adobe Camera Raw, we fine-tuned the white balance and boosted the contrast.
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