Update July 2011
The obvious thing to do when taking flower pictures is to point your camera at the bloom, fill the frame and fire, but there's much more that can be done to add creativity to your pictures.
- Camera - DSLR or a compact camera with a Macro Mode
- Lens - If you're using a DSLR you'll need a macro lens such as the Nikon AF-S VR 105mm f/2.8G IF ED Micro lens
- Tripod - A tripod will mean you can use small apertures in low light without having to worry about shake. One where you can work close to the ground is ideal but you can often achieve similar flexibility using a tripod that has legs that splay wide out or one that has a reversible head so the camera can be mounted at the base of the centre column.
Watch the breeze
Flowers tend to sway around even in the gentlest wind so try and make a barrier so it stays calm. A sheet of card is useful for this and convenient if you're shooting in the garden. Alternatively use a friend to shield the wind when out in the field. You can also by plamps which are fixed to the flower to keep it still.
Focusing on a flower at close range needs to be done carefully. If you focus on the tip of the front petal and shoot using a wide aperture everything towards the back petal will gradually go out of focus. While if you focus in the middle, the back and front will become progressively out of focus. The depth-of-field preview allows you to check the focusing depth and you can preview the photo and check to see if you're happy with the sharpness on the camera's screen. Your best bet is to shoot using as small an aperture as you can to prevent a blurred subject.
Photograph the flower bed
The obvious options when photographing a flower is to shoot the whole bed of flowers or move in closer and fill the frame with just one flower head. But there are many alternatives that you may not have considered. To give you a few ideas, we looked at just one plant and created a series of images.
The most obvious flower pictures are of single heads but normally you'd be tempted to shoot from more of an overhead angle. Shooting from this angle gives a portrait style result and you can use a wider aperture to throw the background out of focus.
Shoot from a wide angle
An alternative approach to shooting with a close up lens is to use a wide angle which also lets you get close but allows excellent depth of field. The flower heads will be smaller in the frame but you get an unusual sense of perspective as the outer flowers bend outwards from the bed to the heads.
Crop in on the flower
Use the macro setting or a macro lens and crop really tightly on the flower head and petals to focus in on shapes and colours. A wider aperture can now be used to throw the rest of the scene out of focus.
Shoot the flower's shadow
Hold a piece of white card behind the flower on a bright day and move it around so that the flower's shadow projects onto the card. Then photograph the card ensuring the flower is out of view. This can produce some lovely abstract effects. Try different angles and positions to change the shapes created on the card. Take a meter reading and open up one stop to prevent the white card going grey.
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