Taking pictures of flowers in a controlled environment such as still life photography, or even in the confines of your garden is one thing. But learning how to photograph flowers in the wild presents a whole number of new challenges. In this quick spring photography guide we show you how to think about the light and how to experiment with the look and feel of your pictures.
Compared to other aspects of nature photography, shooting wild plants and flowers is a stroll in the park. After all, they can’t run off and you don’t need to lug back-breaking lumps of glass around with you to get a decent shot.
What’s more, the diversity and abundance of plants means that you won’t have to venture far to find a subject, and now is the ideal time to give it a go.
How to photograph flowers with the right backdrop
There are a number of lenses that are suitable for flower photography, depending on the style of image you hope to capture. Most general purpose zooms that cover focal lengths of around 24mm to 135mm will give you plenty of options.
The wider end of this range will allow you to include the plant or flower as part of its surroundings, helping to put it into context. The use of a wide-angle also increases depth of field, so the subject and backdrop can be recorded in sharp focus.
A short to mid telephoto is useful if you want to isolate an individual flower by throwing the background out of focus. It’s also possible to reduce the minimum focusing distance of a telephoto by fitting extension tubes.
These inexpensive glass-less tubes fit between the camera and lens and are an effective alternative to a macro lens. For serious close-up work though, use a 1:1 macro so you can hone in on the fine details.
SEE MORE: 25 flower photography tips for beginners
A step-by-step guide on how to photograph flowers in the wild
Choose your lens
Choose an appropriate lens. A wide-angle is ideal for showing a flower in its habitat, while a close-focusing telephoto will isolate it. For super close-ups and abstracts use a dedicated macro lens.
Frame the shot
Set the camera up on a tripod and position it roughly level with the flower to create a pleasing photo composition. Check the background and look around the frame for any distractions, tidying the surroundings as required. A clamp will hold tall stems steady and prevent subject movement.
Think about settings
Use a low ISO for best quality images with minimal noise. Set a small aperture for maximum depth of field or a large aperture to make the subject stand out from the background. Use manual focus for maximum precision. Live View can be useful for accurate focusing.
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Think about light
Most flowers look great to the human eye when viewed in bright sunshine, but this is often not the best light for pictures. Direct sunlight can cause problems with contrast, burning out highlights and creating unflattering shadows.
Soft, diffused light is much better and will produce a more attractive result with bright, well-saturated colours. An alternative approach is to use backlighting to reveal fine details on the stem and flower and add impact to colourful petals.
Backlighting is particularly effective when the subject is photographed against a black background for added drama.
In terms of framing, flowers lend themselves well to a variety of compositions in both horizontal and vertical formats, and this is often dictated by the flower’s overall shape.
Try to shoot level with the subject rather than looking down on it, and place it off to one side of the frame. This will lead to a more intimate and sympathetic composition.
Be creative and think beyond a straightforward record shot and more in terms of the shape, colour and form. Don’t just concentrate on the flower itself – the leaves, stem and other parts of the plant can be just as interesting.
It’s also important not to ignore the background. Frame up the flower so that it has a complementary background that doesn’t compete for attention.
Shooting from a low level will help throw foregrounds and backgrounds softly out of focus when using a telephoto lens. Setting a large aperture will also minimise depth of field so that just the flower is in focus.
If necessary, tidy up the background by holding or carefully tying distracting foliage out of shot. Tweezers can also be useful for removing dead stems.
As the days get longer, more flowers will come into bloom, providing you with a steady stream of subjects to perfect your skills.
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