As many flower varieties are currently in bloom, now's a perfect time to explore the art of flower photography. In this article, we take a closer look at why shades important to a flower photographer and how, with a simple bit of card, a photographer can improve his or her flower shots without too much fuss or extra cost. If you're looking for tips on what kit is good for flower photography, advice on angles to shoot from etc., have a look at ePHOTOzine's technique section
where you'll find a section dedicated to 'Flowers and Plants
The left image was taken in direct sunlight while the one on the right was taken in the shade.
Create Your Own Shade
When it comes to flower photography, it's best to avoid the middle of the day when taking shots of flowers but what do you do if you're in a place you can't return to easily, you see an amazing flower and you look up at the sky and see the sun's too high? Do you shake your head in disappointment and leave the flower behind? No. You get your camera out and create your own shade.
The easiest way to do this is move your body until your shadow's over the flower. But only do this if you're taking a close up. You don't want a shot of a colourful flowerbed with your shadowy outline sticking right out at you.
If you're a little more organised and have room in your bag or car to carry some helpful photography props there are a few you can take. Reflectors and diffusers are the obvious choices but a cheaper option would be a piece of card, cloth or towel. Just remember you need something or someone to hold these up or you could do this yourself and put the camera on a self timer. Make sure your shade-creator is a neutral colour too otherwise your image will have a slight colour cast.
Create Your Own Backgrounds
If you like shooting blooms on location, you need to consider the background very carefully. Out of focus highlights and objects like fence posts, wheelie bins and people can easily ruin your pictures even with judicious depth-of-field control. Getting round the problem is potentially very simple. Not only that, but you can be creative too.
You can use something purpose-made like a reflector or a store-bought background or create your own from a print or a sheet of card.
Sheets of coloured card work fine but stay away from glossy finishes because there could be reflection problems. Matt, single-coloured card works fine, but you can also be more imaginative and paint or print your own using your photo printer.
To help with keeping the background blurred, produce a blurred background in the first place so you do not have to worry about aperture choice so much when you come to shooting.
Your 'background' does not have to be big either. If you are shooting macro studies, a sheet of A4-size card will do nicely.
Please do note that this approach will not be welcomed everywhere so please do not roll up to an award-winning garden and start setting up your background system. It's also worth remembering that not all botanic gardens allow the use of tripods or at least have restrictions on use so you need to check this before you head off in search of a potential subject. If you plan on sticking to public gardens, heathlands or even your own garden, you won't have to worry.
How you work with your background is up to you. With macro work, it is possible to handhold your camera and the card background behind the subject but it is not comfortable, nor is it great technique. You'll also need faster shutter speeds and focusing can be a challenge. As a result, it's much easier to use a tripod so you can hold the background a little way behind the subject much more easily. If you have a spare tripod or a lighting stand, use that to hold the background in place.
When composing your images just make sure the background fills your viewfinder frame – or at least enough of your subject to allow cropping.
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