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How to Photograph Wildflowers

The right equipment and camera settings can help you photograph wildflowers. In some areas, you find wildflowers everywhere: in the woods, by streams, and even in natural storm water ditches. You also find wildflowers in mountainous regions.

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The right equipment

Some types of photography require special equipment. Flower photography falls into that category. For flower photography, you need these things:

  • The right camera and lens: The best type of camera for flower photography is a digital SLR with a telephoto lens that focuses close. Many telephoto lenses have a macro mode, which enables you to get very close to the object you want to photograph.

    A dedicated macro lens with a focal length of 60mm or 90mm is the best choice, but a macro lens can be expensive. Using a good macro lens, you can create life-size (1:1 magnification) images of small objects like flowers.

  • A sturdy, lightweight tripod: Carbon fiber tripods are wonderful, but they are a bit expensive. If you can’t afford a carbon fiber tripod, get the lightest aluminum tripod your budget allows. Your tripod needs to be sturdy enough to support double the weight of your camera and heaviest lens.

    This gives you a bit of a fudge factor. If you purchase a tripod that supports only a bit more weight than your camera and heaviest lens, it won’t be very stable. A stiff wind can also wreak havoc on a flimsy tripod. The legs will vibrate, which can cause images to be less sharp than they should be.

    For flower photography, you also want a tripod with these features:

    • Collapses to a short height. This enables you to get a low vantage point and photograph at the same level as flowers that are low to the ground.

    • A reversible column. This enables you to get the camera even lower to the ground.

    • A spirit level. Alternatively, you can purchase a small dual axis level that fits in your camera hot shoe.

    • Interchangeable feet. When you photograph in dirt, switch to the foot that looks like a spike so the tripod digs into the terrain.

Camera settings

When you photograph flowers, shoot in Aperture Priority mode. This enables you to control your depth of field. When you’re shooting lots of wildflowers, you have two options: You can create a photograph where every flower is in sharp focus or where the flowers in front of the scene are in focus and the rest of the image is a dreamy blur.

To create the first type of photograph, use a small aperture and focus one-third to halfway into the field of wildflowers. This ensures that the entire field of flowers will be in focus.

Create a dreamy look by shooting with a large aperture (small f-stop number). Focus on the flowers nearest the camera, and the distant flowers will be a creamy blur.

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Shoot at the lowest ISO setting possible that yields a shutter speed of at least 1/200 of a second. I know what you’re thinking: Why the fast shutter speed? Well, there are two reasons. First, when you photograph close-ups of flowers, any camera movement is magnified when you zoom in tightly.

Second, if you’re photographing flowers on a windy day, the fast shutter speed will freeze the motion of the flowers swaying in the breeze.

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