The location for this shoot was a living room, making most of the light pouring through the window. Direct sunlight is too harsh for this work so the set up was placed away from the window. A macro lens is ideal for this subject and it's always a good idea to mount your camera on a tripod for stability. Use a remote release, if you have one, to fire the shutter and if your camera has it, the mirror lock-up facility can also help minimise any risk of camera shake.
The background needs to be plain and a piece of black material will work fine. The examples shown here were shot against a black fleece draped over the back of a chair and some on black slate slabs which goes to show you really can use anything!
Focusing was done manually, which is always best for macro work when the lens can search for focus and aperture-priority was used, along with the exposure compensation facility to fine-tune the result.
With a white lily against a black backdrop the risk of poor exposure is quite high, so you may need to make minor adjustments as you go along.
For the above shot, the lens was set to its smallest aperture (f/36) for maximum depth-of-field which gave a shutter speed of 2secs. All the pictures here were done at ISO200.
Next, the flowers were moved closer to the camera and the lens was opened to its maximum aperture to throw the closer flower out of focus.
Closer still, these shots focus on the flower's stamen, with the shot to the right excluding the black backdrop completely. Depth-of-field when you’re this close to the subject is minimal even at a small aperture, as the images to the right shot at f/36 shows.
Quite a few cameras have a multiple exposure feature which will allow two or more exposures to be captured on the same frame. To create the effect shown in the following shot you need to capture one exposure sharp and one totally defocused.
If photographing the flower straight-on doesn't produce the look you're trying to create, try laying it down on a plain surface. The flower in the following shot had to be held in place with a piece of tape to open up the petal.
Black & White
Most digital cameras, even modest compacts, have a monochrome mode, which offers a quick way to enjoy black & white photography. However, convenient though this mode is, the image file straight out of the camera can lack contrast and may need some work in your editing software if you’re going to get the most from it.
The shot on the left is the JPEG monochrome file straight out of the camera and it looks a little flat. The right image is the same shot but the Levels were tweaked in Photoshop which gives more intense blacks and brighter whites.
It’s worth remembering that if you’re shooting in JPEG format, images shot in the monochrome setting will record in black & white only and you can’t produce a colour image should you change your mind later. Shoot Raw and even though the camera monitor might show the mono result you have the full-colour file at your disposal. The best option, if your camera has it, is to shoot in Raw and fine quality JPEG at the same time.
Many cameras have the option of letting you modify your shots using contrast filters (yellow, orange and red are the most popular), toning effects and Art Filters. Some of which can work well with this type of photography so it's worth experimenting with.
Used sparingly, toning monochrome images is a very effective technique and if your camera doesn't allow you to apply effects while shooting, you can always adjust your shots in image editing software.
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