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Get creative at home by taking fresh-looking macro photographs of flowers

Get creative at home by taking fresh-looking macro photographs of flowers
(Image credit: Claire Gillo)

Macro photography and flowers are like two peas in a pod – the two together simply make sense. Flowers are incredibly intricate and detailed when you view them from a close perspective, and the variety of bold bright colors they provide makes them a popular subject.

When it came to setting up this macro flower shot, we used a CD as our background and set up an external flashgun to light it. (See the steps below for more information.)

• Read more: Best flashguns and strobes

We put the camera into manual mode and dialed the aperture down to f/11. To sync the shutter speed with the flash, we set the shutter speed to 1/200 sec and kept the sensitivity low at ISO100. As we had the flash positioned close to the flower, we balanced the flashgun strength at 1/8 power.

(Image credit: Claire Gillo)

After you take a test shot, it’s important to check your histogram to ensure that your exposure is reading correctly. For this shot, we wanted to be sure that the highlights in the flower didn’t overexpose, as it would wash out the rich orange color.

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Macro photography tips

(Image credit: Claire Gillo)

We did a few test shots to check that the highlights in the flower didn’t overexpose…

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Macro photography tips

(Image credit: Claire Gillo)

Another test shot to check the highlights didn't blow out

Step by step: Creative close-ups of a flower

(Image credit: Claire Gillo)

01. Set up the CD background

You know that pile of redundant CDs you still have stored away, and keep thinking you must get rid of? Hang on to them! They make a fantastic backdrop for close-up shots. If you angle your light source carefully, you can create a rainbow effect from the reflective surface. It’s a trial and error approach to get it right, but it’s well worth the effort. 

(Image credit: Claire Gillo)

02. Lighting

To light this flower and create the rainbow effect from the CD, we used one external flashgun pointing directly at the flower. We used a remote trigger to fire the flash and set the flash strength to 1/8 power in manual mode. When you shoot with flash yourself, using manual is by far the easiest method and gives you the most control.

(Image credit: Claire Gillo)

03. Choose the right lens

It helps to use a macro lens with a 1:1 aspect ratio to get super close-up shots – but if you don’t have one of these, you could use a reversing ring and switch your standard lens around the other way. Set your camera up on a tripod, and focus manually. If your flower is positioned at an angle to the camera, consider focus stacking for sharper results.

• Read more: Best macro lenses

This article was first published in Digital Camera magazine.

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Read more: 

Best ringflash for macro photography
The best macro lenses
The best flashguns and strobes
The best close-up filters

Claire Gillo

Claire is a professional photographer and writer lives by the the sea with her two young children, husband and cat in the South West of the UK.


After graduating from The Bournemouth Arts Institute with a first class degree in Photography, Claire worked for a number of years in the publishing industry including as Technique Editor for  Digital Camera magazine.


She love anything and everything to do with photography! From creating magazine articles to photographing ballerinas on the beach and new born babies (not not at the same time).  She mainly shoot with digital DSLRs but does dust off her beloved Hasselblad medium format film off once in a while…