From challenging backgrounds to strong overhead light, photographing spring flowers can frustrate the best of us. In this tutorial, expert Mark Hamblin explains how to choose the right subject and set up your camera to shoot striking pictures of wildflowers.
Woodlands and meadows come alive with wildflowers as early as February in warmer climes and continue into summer, providing a fantastic succession of species to photograph.
Chances are that you’ll have little trouble finding wildflowers close to where you live, so you can pick your moment and photograph them when the weather conditions are ideal and when the flowers are looking their best.
From wide views to colourful close-up abstracts, there are bags of photo opportunities to capture delightful pictures of spring flowers.
Ironically, one of the greatest challenges of flower photography is choosing the right subject to photograph.
This may sound absurd when you’re faced with a field full of them, but the condition of the flower and its relationship to the background are just two factors that will influence the outcome of your images.
It’s easy to start shooting the first flower you come across, but try to avoid this temptation. Instead, spend some time searching for an unblemished specimen growing in the best setting.
When looking for groups of flowers to photograph, the arrangement of the flowers is also important. Choose a well-proportioned clump that you can frame without the flowers overlapping each other too much.
The way you approach taking pictures of spring flowers will depend on your photographic gear to some extent, but there are a wide variety of images that you can take with just a basic kit.
If you want to delve into the world of macro photography, you’ll either need to invest in a specialist lens that allows you to record at life size (1:1) or use close-up filters that screw into the front of the lens.
Another way to shoot close-ups is to use extension rings – small glassless rings of varying width that fit between the lens and the camera, enabling the lens to focus closer to the subject.
If you take a look at pictures of spring flowers you’ll see a wide diversity of photographic styles, some of which may appeal more than others.
Historically, photographers took a fairly conservative documentary approach to recording flowers, creating classic portraits highlighting the main features.
This is a good starting point, but a change of lens and perspective can produce more interesting results.
Using a wide-angle lens, for example, allows you to show the flower in its environment. And once you begin your quest to explore flowers in close-up, there are endless possibilities for creating colourful abstracts.
Going in really close will reveal the bizarre structures of the flower that we don’t normally see. The weird and wonderful shapes, patterns and forms and their contrasting colours and textures are perfect for creating unusual abstract images.
Choosing a wide aperture to minimise depth of field is an effective way to isolate part of the flower by emphasising blur.
This selective focusing produces a softer feel to the picture and helps to highlight a single feature within the flower.
These kinds of images are well suited to diffused light, but bright light can also be effective when used to backlight semi-translucent petals.
The light reveals fine detail as well as highlighting the delicate hairs found on some petals and plant stems.
PAGE 1 – How to set up your camera for pictures of spring flowers
PAGE 2 – Three ways to shoot pictures of spring flowers
PAGE 3 – How to shoot dreamy flower portraits
PAGE 4 – Final tips for striking spring flowers
10 common camera mistakes every photographer makes
Spring photography tips: how to photograph flowers in the wild
Garden photography tips: how to take professional pictures of plants
25 flower photography tips for beginners