Every photographer has taken pictures of flowers at one point or another. Flower photos are enduringly popular subject matter because their colours, shapes and textures add so much impact to your photo compositions.
But a few simple tweaks to the way you set up and compose your pictures of flowers, as well as the way you edit your flower photos in the digital darkroom, can dramatically increase their visual appeal. Here’s how it’s done.
Composing pictures of flowers from the ground up
Taking pictures of flowers isn’t all about close-up macro shots and shooting from above. In this tutorial we’ll show you how to take a different approach to taking pictures of flowers by shooting them from low down with a wide-angle lens for an unusual and engaging ‘bug’s-eye view’.
In the spring and summer, public gardens, and perhaps your own garden, will be in bloom with a variety of flowers.
Alternatively, you can buy some cut flowers, as we did. We set up a selection of blooms, including tulips and hyacinths, and placed our camera in the middle of the bunch, facing upwards, to create the impression of the flowers towering above.
We used a flashgun to boost the colours of our flowers, but if you don’t have one you can use your DSLR’s pop-up flash.
At the editing stage we added a blue sky to our flower photo, which we copied from a landscape shot and added in as a new layer. We also added a lens flare effect, to create the feel of a hazy summer’s day.
How to set up your pictures of flowers
Capturing your flower photos will involve a little trial and error, but getting key settings right will help you achieve great results.
You can set up your shoot in your garden if you’ve got some colourful flowers, or head down to the local park, or, if it’s easier, buy some flowers.
We bought a mixed bunch from a florist, including a selection of tulips and hyacinths. For the best results you want a variety of flowers of different heights and colours; try to find some that droop forward too, so they’ll fall over the lens.
SEE MORE: 25 flower photography tips for beginners
02 Wide-angle lens
For our shoot we used the wide-angle Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L lens on an EOS 5D Mk III. You could also use a fisheye lens, for an even more abstract distorted effect.
For the majority of shots we had the lens set between 16mm and 20mm; at these wide angles you’ll need to make sure you’re out of the frame, so it’s best to duck out the way when firing the shutter.
03 Camera settings
Set your camera to Manual mode, and set the ISO to 100 for smooth, noise-free images. Set the shutter speed to 1/200 sec to sync with your flash.
We set the aperture to f/6.3, which kept most of our flowers sharp: it doesn’t matter if a few flowers at the edges are blurred, but you do want all the central ones to be sharp.
It can be tricky to get the focusing right, and the best option is to set your lens to AF, and make sure the central AF point is locking on to the most prominent flowers in the centre of the frame.
You also need to make sure that your lens is far enough away from the flowers – if you’re inside the lens’ minimum focusing distance it won’t be able to achieve focus.
To light our shot we set our flashgun to Manual, and set it to fire at 1/32 power; we kept the power low as the subject was very close, and we didn’t want to bleach out the colours and blow the highlights.
If your pictures of flowers are too dark or too bright you can increase or reduce the flash power.
If you’re using your pop-up flash, note that not all camera models allow you to use Manual flash mode; if this is the case, shoot in E-TTL mode, and use Flash Exposure Compensation to fine-tune the flash power.
06 How low can you go?
Once you’re set up, place your camera on the ground with the lens pointing upwards into the flowers. If you have a Vari-Angle LCD, use it to help you compose your pictures of flowers.
If you don’t, you’ll need to shoot your pictures of flowers blind, and keep checking the results.
If your camera is in an awkward position, use a remote control to fire the shutter. Take lots of shots, and keep tweaking the position of the flowers to get a good selection of images; try to fill the frame evenly, and include a variety of colours.
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