Macro Photography and Flowers
Photographing a single flower is an art unto itself. This is similar to portrait photography. If you live in a temperate climate, you can find flowers just about anywhere in the spring and summer months.
Close-ups of flowers
When you photograph close-ups of flowers, you need a telephoto lens, with a short focusing distance, or a true macro lens. This enables you to zoom in tightly and capture the flower and a bit of background or to zoom in tighter to create a picture of the delicate parts of a flower: the stem, the petals, or the stamen. Here are six tips for photographing close-ups of flowers:
Set your camera on the same plane as the flower. When you’re photographing an extreme close-up of anything, you’re dealing with a limited depth of field. If the camera is slightly tilted, parts of the flower will appear out of focus.
Shoot in Aperture Priority mode using an aperture with an f-stop of f/8. If you choose a larger aperture (smaller f-stop value), the back of the flower will be out of focus.
Photograph a perfect specimen. Let’s face it; even a good photograph of a wilted flower won’t garner rave reviews.
Photograph the flower against a contrasting background. In most cases, you get your best results when you photograph a flower against a dark background. Even a dark colored flower looks best against a darker background.
Choose an ISO setting that yields a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second when choosing an aperture of f/8. The fast shutter speed helps freeze action on a windy day and also compensates for any camera movement. Use a fast shutter speed even when you place your camera on a tripod.
Photograph flowers on an overcast day or in even shade. This helps control the dynamic range (variation from light to dark tones) and yields more saturated colors.
Carry a small 12-inch diffuser with you if you’re forced to photograph flowers in bright light. The diffuser folds into a 4-inch circle that fits easily in most camera bags. Take the diffuser out of its case to extend it to its full diameter and hold it over the flower — instant shade.
Sometimes you need to add a kiss of light to a flower photograph. A little bit of light can go a long way toward warming up an otherwise sterile picture. You can add some light to a photograph of a flower in the following ways:
Use a small handheld reflector to bounce light into a flower. Purchase a small, 12-inch, two-sided reflector that is silver on one side and gold on the other. The silver side doesn’t alter the color of the light. The gold side warms the light, giving it a golden hue like the light you get during Magic Hour.
Use your auxiliary flash to add a splash of light to the image. This cannot be done effectively with an on-camera flash unit. When you’re photographing close-ups of a flower, the lens causes a shadow to appear on your subject. An auxiliary flash is higher and the beam of light doesn’t strike the lens in such a way that a shadow is formed.
You’ll get even better results if you use a diffuser on your flash, such as the one from LumiQuest. This increases the size of the light source and creates a more diffuse light.Credit: Image courtesy of LumiQuest
If your auxiliary flash unit is equipped with exposure compensation, you can control the amount of flash that reaches your subject. Use this feature to decrease the amount of light that hits your subject.
Use your auxiliary flash off camera. Many cameras give you the option of triggering a supported auxiliary flash unit from a camera menu control. If your camera has this feature, the camera automatically meters the exposure, including the light generated by the flash unit.
Your camera may also have the capability to control the amount of flash output using flash exposure compensation. When you use the flash unit off camera, you can control the direction from which the light is coming. You should also diffuse the output using a light modifier. LumiQuest makes products that diffuse the light from a flash unit.