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April 14, 2011 / arthill

Flower photography

April showers bring May flowers so I thought this would be a good time to share some of my tips for flower photography.

  1. Get down low – Unless you’re shooting tall flowers or blossoms on your hibiscus tree you need to get down to where the flowers are.  Squatting is tough and usually introduces camera shake.  Kneeling or sitting is better, so dress accordingly or even bring a mat with you.
  2. Remember that the closer you get and/or the longer the lens the more camera movement is magnified.  So you’ll need to use a tripod or use a relatively fast shutter speed.  Unfortunately you will want to use a small lens aperture as well because depth-of-field is shallow when you get in close too.  Decide how high you can set your ISO and still get reasonably noise-free images and use that. (Probably 400 ISO for a point and shoot and 800 ISO for a DSLR.)
  3. Focus is critical and your camera may autofocus on the “wrong” part of the flower.  Either switch your camera to a single focusing spot or watch carefully and recompose until the camera picks an important part of the flower.  Read the Focus section in Are your photos as sharp as you’d like?
  4. Metering.  If you’re filling the frame with a flower your camera metering will probably do the job.  If you’re a little farther back and the background is darker than the flower your camera will not handle this well and you’ll end up with a blown out white flower.  I run into this all the time when shooting water lilies with dark water as a background.  I switch the camera to spot metering so that the camera exposes just for the flower.
  5. Try out your telephoto lens.  I used to always shoot flowers from as close as I could get, even dragging out a macro lens.  Now I sometimes shoot from a lot farther back with a telephoto lens.  This had the added advantage of making it easier to blur the background. Look at this tulip with an f-stop of f5.6
  6. Use a wider angle lens or zoom out to show where you found the flowers.
  7. Shoot part of a flower.  You don’t have to include the whole flower in a shot and you can be rid of distracting background elements.
  8. Shoot the back of a flower.
  9. Shoot from the side.
  10. Shoot early in the morning or late afternoon.  Shoot on cloudy days or overcast days.  I have never gotten a good flower picture on a bright sunny day.  If you must shoot on a bright sunny day (e.g. vacation) have somebody hold something up to shade the flower. Shoot on rainy days after the rain stops or from under an umbrella. As a bonus you may get some water drops.
  11. Use the sky as background
  12. Have fun.  And smell the flowers.


Leave a Comment
  1. Ed Spadoni / Apr 14 2011 7:45 pm

    These are beautiful images Art. I often shoot flowers with a longer zoom with great results. My biggest challenge is when there’s a breeze and not enough light to shoot fast. I’ve had some success blocking the wind with a newspaper, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the light.

  2. Maryann Goldman / Apr 14 2011 10:33 pm

    I think you’ve got all the major points covered! I’m a fan of ‘up’ shots. Definitely some very pretty pics in this post. My fav is the S style curve shot of the pink tulilps.

  3. Dianne Ward / Apr 15 2011 7:25 am

    Excellent timely article Art, accompanied by your beautiful floral images. Hopefully we will have some flowers soon and I can get out and give some of your tips a try.

  4. Susan Wilde / Apr 16 2011 1:09 pm

    Beautiful images in the post. I think you’ve pretty much covered an interesting subject.

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