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How To Photograph Flowers Outdoors This Spring

How To Photograph Flowers Outdoors This Spring - Improve your Spring photography with these top flower photography tips that will have you tackling one of the most colourful photographic subjects with ease in no-time.

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Flowers and Plants


Flower photographyPhoto by Rick Hanson

 

Flower photography can be so unbelievably frustrating, not to mention time-consuming, but it's also utterly absorbing and when you do capture that perfect frame, it's incredibly rewarding.

Actually locating your subject can be as simple or as desperately difficult as you choose to make it as you can stumble across potential images everywhere, even in the depths of winter, however, those who decide to specialise on one particular family will find the going gets tougher as they search out the rarer species. 

 

Take Care 

Whether the flower you want to photograph is ultra rare or indeed the more common Dandelion found in your own garden's flower bed, do be careful when placing yourself and your gear down as you don't want to damage any nearby plants and flowers. It's also tempting to 'garden' the shot but by removing vegetation and stems you can damage sensitive habitats, even more so when working in nature reserves or around rare specimens. Instead, take some gardening twine with you and tie back whatever is in the way. If you can't move enough of the surrounding shrubs and so-forth out of the way, just move on and find a different bloom - sometimes it very quickly becomes obvious that the subject of your interest isn't going to play ball and you will have to wait until your next visit to try again (patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to flower photography). 

Talking of blooms, never assume that the first bloom you come across is the one for you. Chances are, there will be a better one nearby, so go hunting. It's all too easy to begin shooting the first specimen of a new species, spending valuable daylight minutes only to happen across a more photogenic one around the corner.

 

Choose a flower that is freshly opened, free from damage and easily accessible and then take some time working out the optimum viewpoint.

 

Flower

Photo by Rick Hanson

 

Lens Choices 

When it comes to lens choices, you can't go wrong with a mid-range zoom when you're first starting out in flower photography, especially if it has a macro mode, as the wider end is ideal for when you're trying to show the plant in its environment. You can then get right in on detail with the opposite end of the focal length scale, shooting with a wide aperture selected to blur the background.

The ultimate flower photography lens kit includes everything from an ultra-wide zoom to a 300mm telephoto and not forgetting a 100mm macro, of course. The widest possible lens is great for getting maximum depth-of-field while the workhorse lens has to be the 100mm macro backed up by a 300mm telephoto for the ultimate background knockout. Not forgetting, of course, something to cover the medium range.

Whatever lens is you choose, it's the selected aperture that will make or break a flower shot. Too small and the background will be too focussed, competing with the main subject but go too wide and there may not be sufficient detail to make the image work.

For environmental plant portraits, close down a long way to capture some detail in the background, but still leaving it slightly out of focus to enable the subject to stand out well. With a wide-angle lens try f/8 as a starting point and always remember to check with the depth-of-field preview button. If the plant can be framed against a plain section of background it may be possible to stop right down and focus using the hyperfocal distance scale on the lens barrel, rendering everything bitingly sharp.

For detail shots, it can be best to open up a touch. Once again by continuously checking the depth-of-field with the preview button close control over the final image is possible. With a longer lens, 100mm and above, try opening wide and targeting a particular part of the flower's anatomy, letting the petals lose themselves in a sea of colourful blur. This style of image may be of no use for identification purposes but can help tell the tale of why you found that particular bloom worthy of photographing.

 

Photo by Rick Hanson

 

Composition Tips

To build up a useful collection, make sure you shoot every aspect of the plant in front of you, covering everything from the perfect record shot which shows every important aspect in sharp detail, individual shots of identifying features and images that link it to its particular habitat. Try to tell the whole story of the plant and its place in the countryside, not forgetting the pollinating insects buzzing around its petals.

Choice of viewpoint is of paramount importance in achieving all these goals. Before you even mount your camera onto the tripod wander around the plant viewing it from all sides through various lenses and at different levels. You will probably find that a position close to the plant's imagined eye level will give the best results. 

 

PlantPhoto by Rick Hanson

 

When To Capture Your Images

We've all heard that the best days to shoot are slightly overcast ones with a veil of high clouds cutting the contrast but letting lots of brightness through. Oh, and of course there should be no wind... at all! If we were to wait for these perfect conditions our equipment would gather dust for most of the year. The secret is to find a way of making the best of whatever Mother Nature throws in our direction. Perfect days will happen, but don't hold your breath. 

If it rains, shoot raindrops and when the wind blows, make something of the movement with a longish shutter speed or wait for a lull in the breeze.... you can always find creative ways to photograph flowers even if it does mean you get soggy knees or find yourself waiting for the wind to slow to a gentle whisper more times than you hit the shutter button. 

Bright sun can be the most difficult to work with as it delivers too much contrast and too many shadows. The solution can lie with various forms of light modifiers. Reflectors are ideal for bouncing light back onto shaded petals, or to pick out the underside of a plant and diffusers are perfect for close up shots but for best effect, the diffusion material must be placed virtually on top of the plant.

When working in shaded areas, use fill-flash fired through a diffusion screen with the screen positioned closer to the subject than to the flash. A quick and dirty solution is simple fill-in flash with the intensity dialled down by about two-thirds of a stop but the effect can be somewhat unpredictable and not totally natural looking but if the shot is all-important give it a try. A polarising filter can also help get rid of the blue cast caused by a steely hot sky.

Photo by Rick Hanson

 

Show Us Your Photos 

Your gardens, plant pots and local parks should be brimming with flowers by now so why not make the most of the colourful spring flora and head outside with your camera then share your images with us below or in the gallery

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I shot these two images of tulips were shot in raw, using my Canon 60d with a 24mm lens. The sky was really sunny and bright, and the tulips were in the 'Garden of Remembrance'.

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