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Cosmos flower

By Tigercomp
A photo of a Cosmos flower in my garden. I've taken quite a few shots of it, but quite like this angle. Would it have been better without the other flower behind it?


Tags: Flowers and plants Garden flowers Cosmos flower

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dudler Plus
16 1.2k 1679 England
22 Jul 2020 5:29PM
Thank you for a simple question, Mary!

A plain background makes things simple, and makes the subject stand out. But even better is an unobtrusive background that doesn't interfere, but adds atmosphere - a bit like the styling question that Chase raised on your previous post.

So while it might be better if the background flower was less well-lit than the main subject, and it would, arguably, be better if it was separate from the foreground flower, this isn't bad at all.

A wideish aperture helps blur the background, which is good, but it's a bit of a two-edged sword. It also gives very little depth of field (front to back sharpness) in the main flower head. There's a plane of sharpness, right through the middle (which is good), but some viewers might prefer all of the flower head sharp.

If I was shooting this, I'd try variations on the composition, and might stop down to f/8 or even f/11 to see how it looks. Don't be afraid to experiment - it's the best way to learn. And I'd use a plain background rather than matching the border to the flower colour - but others may differ... There's one real flower expert on the Critique Team, and she'll probably be along soon.

My wife's Cosmos are all white this year... And they grew very well indeed, all over the place!
chase Plus
14 1.7k 411 England
22 Jul 2020 5:36PM
Hi Mary,
I love Cosmos, I have lots in the garden, all white ones this year, they are very photogenic with the striking yellow centre.

Firstly, to answer your question..yes imho this would have been better without the second Cosmos in the bg as it does overlap the main subject and becomes a little confused.
The lighter blotch on the other side is a bit of a distraction too and could easily be cloned away during post processing.
The light is ok but looks a tad harsh , flower petals are very reflective and this would have benefitted from the use of a small diffuser, a piece of tracing paper, greaseproof paper or even a bit of old net curtain would do or...of course...a small diffuser.
Strong sunlight is not the best for flower photography, earlier in the morning, later in the afternoon or when the clouds come over would have been a better time.

Did you use a tripod ? as I see such a wee bit of movement in the petals, outdoors you are totally subject to the weather, even the slightest breeze will affect the sharpness of your image.

I am just a little troubled by the all over sharpness of your image, most detail seems to be on the right hand side petals and really should be on that beautiful centre to make it pop in the frame. At F6.3 I would have thought the centre would have been in focus had the focal point been in the right place.

A dedicated macro lens would be my choice too.
The pink shows well against the dark greens and I like the bokeh you have on the left side of the frame, that's rather pretty.

I will have a bash at a mod, see what happens.
chase Plus
14 1.7k 411 England
22 Jul 2020 6:00PM
In my mod, I...
Cloned away the second Cosmos and the light blotch and the lighter stems.

Sharpened the centre as much as I dare without losing quality.

Cropped and rotated the image to put it on a diagonal in the frame which meant cloning in the spaces the cropping left. Just a different way of composing your image and has a different dynamic in the frame.

All done in Photoshop on separate layers.

I don't mind softness on the petals, that can be pretty but the centre does need to be sharper.

Reframed to compensate for the crop.
22 Jul 2020 6:29PM

Quote:In my mod, I...
Cloned away the second Cosmos and the light blotch and the lighter stems.

Sharpened the centre as much as I dare without losing quality.

Cropped and rotated the image to put it on a diagonal in the frame which meant cloning in the spaces the cropping left. Just a different way of composing your image and has a different dynamic in the frame.

All done in Photoshop on separate layers.

I don't mind softness on the petals, that can be pretty but the centre does need to be sharper.

Reframed to compensate for the crop.



Wow, it looks like a completely different photo. Thanks very much for your explanations and the time you've taken to modify the original. I must confess to not using a tripod on this occasion. I was lying on the grass in order to get the shot I wanted and thought it would be difficult with a tripod. It was also a little windy, so perhaps not the best day to be taking photos outside. I haven't got Photoshop, but can see it is really useful and is probably something I will purchase. Also a dedicated macro lens is a good idea. I do like taking macro shots. Have you any recommendations on what to look for?
22 Jul 2020 6:34PM

Quote:Thank you for a simple question, Mary!

A plain background makes things simple, and makes the subject stand out. But even better is an unobtrusive background that doesn't interfere, but adds atmosphere - a bit like the styling question that Chase raised on your previous post.

So while it might be better if the background flower was less well-lit than the main subject, and it would, arguably, be better if it was separate from the foreground flower, this isn't bad at all.

A wideish aperture helps blur the background, which is good, but it's a bit of a two-edged sword. It also gives very little depth of field (front to back sharpness) in the main flower head. There's a plane of sharpness, right through the middle (which is good), but some viewers might prefer all of the flower head sharp.

If I was shooting this, I'd try variations on the composition, and might stop down to f/8 or even f/11 to see how it looks. Don't be afraid to experiment - it's the best way to learn. And I'd use a plain background rather than matching the border to the flower colour - but others may differ... There's one real flower expert on the Critique Team, and she'll probably be along soon.

My wife's Cosmos are all white this year... And they grew very well indeed, all over the place!



Thanks for your comments. That's a good idea for me to experiment with different stops. I think I'm a bit impatient and want to take the photo too quickly. My first time growing Cosmos this year and I love how they've turned out. Most of mine are the colour as above, but I have a few white ones too. I've taken quite a few photos of them - don't worry I won't be sharing them all!
chase Plus
14 1.7k 411 England
22 Jul 2020 6:57PM

Quote: I was lying on the grass in order to get the shot I wanted and thought it would be difficult with a tripod

Unless your tripod goes quite flat then it's difficult. Mine has a removable centre column and the legs flatten, or I can put the centre column back in upside down, mount the camera, very low to the ground, and away you go ! The other alternative is to use a bean bag or a small cushion ( encased in a plastic carrier bag to keep it dry ) to rest your camera on.

As far as macro lenses go, I use a Sigma 105mm but there are many more to choose from these days. Have a look in the main Gallery at some macro images and note the lens the poster has used then perhaps form your opinion from there. Some are very costly but there are some nice second hand ones available, depending on your budget.
22 Jul 2020 7:12PM

Quote:
Quote: I was lying on the grass in order to get the shot I wanted and thought it would be difficult with a tripod

Unless your tripod goes quite flat then it's difficult. Mine has a removable centre column and the legs flatten, or I can put the centre column back in upside down, mount the camera, very low to the ground, and away you go ! The other alternative is to use a bean bag or a small cushion ( encased in a plastic carrier bag to keep it dry ) to rest your camera on.

As far as macro lenses go, I use a Sigma 105mm but there are many more to choose from these days. Have a look in the main Gallery at some macro images and note the lens the poster has used then perhaps form your opinion from there. Some are very costly but there are some nice second hand ones available, depending on your budget.



Thank you, thery're good ideas.
dark_lord Plus
16 2.6k 683 England
22 Jul 2020 9:53PM
I can only second the advice given above and it's exactly what Iwould have said (so it's saved me some typing!).

The white flower blob is the more distracting element for me. It pays to consider many different angles when you have fowers in a bed and take note of the edges and th background. It's something that will soon become second nature.

Coloured borders can work with bold images so long as they don't fight for attention with the subject. Think o it as choosing a card surround for a pring moiunted in a frame. That said, a keyline of 2 or 3 pixels is often sufficient on screen just to demarcate the picture edge, especially for example if the image was predominantly light and it was set against the white page as here.
Jestertheclown 11 8.2k 253 England
22 Jul 2020 9:57PM
I've nothing to add to the above but there's a school of thought that says that you should avoid using a border of the same, or similar, colour to the predominant one in your image.

Just a thought.
banehawi Plus
16 2.2k 4149 Canada
23 Jul 2020 4:06AM
You could look for a used Nikon macro lens, I believe theres a 105mm; third party lenses from Sigma and Tamron are also excellent.
23 Jul 2020 8:29AM

Quote:I can only second the advice given above and it's exactly what Iwould have said (so it's saved me some typing!).

The white flower blob is the more distracting element for me. It pays to consider many different angles when you have fowers in a bed and take note of the edges and th background. It's something that will soon become second nature.

Coloured borders can work with bold images so long as they don't fight for attention with the subject. Think o it as choosing a card surround for a pring moiunted in a frame. That said, a keyline of 2 or 3 pixels is often sufficient on screen just to demarcate the picture edge, especially for example if the image was predominantly light and it was set against the white page as here.



Yes, you're right about the white blob, it's much more noticeable when the picture is larger and is something I will look out for in future. I don't usually include a border, so that was an experiment for me. I'll try a different border in future as everyone here agrees not to use the same/similar colour as the main element. Thanks for your comments.
23 Jul 2020 8:30AM

Quote:I've nothing to add to the above but there's a school of thought that says that you should avoid using a border of the same, or similar, colour to the predominant one in your image.

Just a thought.



Thanks, yes I'll try a different type of border. I'd like to do a drop shadow type border, but not sure how to do it yet.
23 Jul 2020 8:32AM

Quote:You could look for a used Nikon macro lens, I believe theres a 105mm; third party lenses from Sigma and Tamron are also excellent.


Thanks, I will have a look at them.
mrswoolybill Plus
13 2.2k 2247 United Kingdom
23 Jul 2020 9:53AM
I'm a bit late here. As an alternative to a dedicated macro lens, you could look at the Nikon F/2.8 40mm micro lens. London Camera Exchange currently have one 2nd hand, see here. It would give greater flexibility of use

It's a lens that I love dearly. Not a true macro lens of course, I bought it initially because it focuses close, so it's useful for photographing items in museums in glass cases, I can hold it right up to the glass surface. But it's now my go-to lens for flowers, details, it's also good for portraits. A friend even used hers for nudes. It gives a very intimate, caressing quality.

Now that shops are open, why not see if you can have a look through various possibilities before deciding?
Moira
23 Jul 2020 9:58AM

Quote:I'm a bit late here. As an alternative to a dedicated macro lens, you could look at the Nikon F/2.8 40mm micro lens. London Camera Exchange currently have one 2nd hand, see here. It would give greater flexibility of use

It's a lens that I love dearly. Not a true macro lens of course, I bought it initially because it focuses close, so it's useful for photographing items in museums in glass cases, I can hold it right up to the glass surface. But it's now my go-to lens for flowers, details, it's also good for portraits. A friend even used hers for nudes. It gives a very intimate, caressing quality.

Now that shops are open, why not see if you can have a look through various possibilities before deciding?
Moira



Thanks very much. I'll look into your recommendation. There are so many lenses to choose from, it's going to take me a while to decide I think.
pamelajean Plus
14 1.4k 2149 United Kingdom
23 Jul 2020 9:12PM
Hello, Mary, sorry to be late coming into this picture for critique.
I'm so glad you enjoy flower photography, and I feel sure you will find it utterly absorbing, as well as extremely frustrating. You will be discovering that the further you go with it, the more there is to learn and the more difficulties there are to overcome.

For instance, I have been wanting to get pictures of all the new blooms in my garden this week, but the sun has been too strong. Even when a cloud hides the sun, it doesn't give me enough time to get the camera set up. As has been said, early morning and late evening are the best times because the light is so subtle. You shot this at 11.34am, almost mid-day, when the sun is at its highest and the light is the strongest. Overcast days are great for flower photography as clouds naturally diffuse light and your shot will be more evenly exposed.

Of course, if you are out and about and only have one chance to take some flower pictures, then you will need to compensate for that strong light by using negative exposure compensation, some kind of diffuser, or even use your own shadow (or that of someone else) over your subject, for best results.

As to your background, I agree that the image would be better without the background flower. With that one directly behind your chosen subject, it tends to blend in with it and destroy the outline of the main bloom. Whilst looking at your flower through the viewfinder, next look at the background, and move yourself if there is anything distracting that's intruding into your frame. Some flower photographers use pieces of coloured card placed behind their chosen flower, some drape some dark non-reflective material, and some peg back intrusions before taking the shot. Others will completely change the background once they get home in front of the computerBlush.

Be sure to go all around the flower trying different angles and different focus points. Use both large and small apertures and decide which you like best. Review your images between shots and alter your settings if you want to change the look you are getting.

Depth of field needs to be carefully controlled. Varying your depth of field can mean that just the stamens stand out sharp and proud, or that the entire flower is pin sharp with a blurry background.

A few more points:-
1. Think about setting your flower at an angle. This is far more attractive than a straight-up stem and flower.
2. Try not to set your flower in the centre of your frame. Offsetting it will add impact.
3. Be sure to get some leaves in your shot, if at all possible, because they can be just as interesting as the flower itself, and they also have shapes and textures that the flower doesn't have.
4. You did well keeping the whole of the flower inside the frame. A lot of people chop off petals and leaves. An alternative for you to try is completely filling the frame with the petals and using the flower centre as the focal point, but it must be sharp.
5. On a windy day, if you are shooting at home, just wait for another day. It can be too frustrating.
However, a tripod is a brilliant tool to help on a breezy day, if you can't resist having a go.
6. A polarizing filter is something I regularly use. It can be fitted to your lens to lower glare and enhance the colours of your flowers.
7. Focusing selectively can produce some very creative images. Give it a go.

As I said, there is a lot to learn. HERE is a short EPZ article about Flower Backgrounds.

Pamela.
LarryG 3 9 1 United States
23 Jul 2020 9:51PM
Mary, I'll answer your question with a question. First though, I think the image has lots of promise for other images down the line. The nice things about flowers is the ability to go back and take more. Now, did you intend for the main flower to be completely in focus? Would you prefer it to be in focus or are you only trying to make the center stamens of the flower the main element of the photo? I don't find that the second flower adds anything, but separating the two with more focus on the main flower would likely help in my view. You may want to look into focus stacking where you shoot several shots of the flower focusing bottom to top on everything you want in focus. This must be done with a tripod without moving the camera. You merge these images together to achieve a fully focused flower. There are many tutorials online for focus stacking with Photoshop or a focus stacking software called Helicon Focus. Let me know if you want more detailed information about focus stacking. As you look at the image, do you see the bright green at the bottom right and center right going right up to the flower? These are highlights that distract from the rest of the image. When looking at any image, the eye goes to the brightest areas of the image, the highlights. Highlights where you don't want them are called rogue highlights and should be avoided. You can fix this by darkening that corner and/or adding some vignetting around the frame. Although it's fine if you like it, I personally would eliminate the purple frame because it draws the eye away from the focal point, the flower. I hope this helps.
24 Jul 2020 9:31AM

Quote:Hello, Mary, sorry to be late coming into this picture for critique.
I'm so glad you enjoy flower photography, and I feel sure you will find it utterly absorbing, as well as extremely frustrating. You will be discovering that the further you go with it, the more there is to learn and the more difficulties there are to overcome.

For instance, I have been wanting to get pictures of all the new blooms in my garden this week, but the sun has been too strong. Even when a cloud hides the sun, it doesn't give me enough time to get the camera set up. As has been said, early morning and late evening are the best times because the light is so subtle. You shot this at 11.34am, almost mid-day, when the sun is at its highest and the light is the strongest. Overcast days are great for flower photography as clouds naturally diffuse light and your shot will be more evenly exposed.

Of course, if you are out and about and only have one chance to take some flower pictures, then you will need to compensate for that strong light by using negative exposure compensation, some kind of diffuser, or even use your own shadow (or that of someone else) over your subject, for best results.

As to your background, I agree that the image would be better without the background flower. With that one directly behind your chosen subject, it tends to blend in with it and destroy the outline of the main bloom. Whilst looking at your flower through the viewfinder, next look at the background, and move yourself if there is anything distracting that's intruding into your frame. Some flower photographers use pieces of coloured card placed behind their chosen flower, some drape some dark non-reflective material, and some peg back intrusions before taking the shot. Others will completely change the background once they get home in front of the computerBlush.

Be sure to go all around the flower trying different angles and different focus points. Use both large and small apertures and decide which you like best. Review your images between shots and alter your settings if you want to change the look you are getting.

Depth of field needs to be carefully controlled. Varying your depth of field can mean that just the stamens stand out sharp and proud, or that the entire flower is pin sharp with a blurry background.

A few more points:-
1. Think about setting your flower at an angle. This is far more attractive than a straight-up stem and flower.
2. Try not to set your flower in the centre of your frame. Offsetting it will add impact.
3. Be sure to get some leaves in your shot, if at all possible, because they can be just as interesting as the flower itself, and they also have shapes and textures that the flower doesn't have.
4. You did well keeping the whole of the flower inside the frame. A lot of people chop off petals and leaves. An alternative for you to try is completely filling the frame with the petals and using the flower centre as the focal point, but it must be sharp.
5. On a windy day, if you are shooting at home, just wait for another day. It can be too frustrating.
However, a tripod is a brilliant tool to help on a breezy day, if you can't resist having a go.
6. A polarizing filter is something I regularly use. It can be fitted to your lens to lower glare and enhance the colours of your flowers.
7. Focusing selectively can produce some very creative images. Give it a go.

As I said, there is a lot to learn. HERE is a short EPZ article about Flower Backgrounds.

Pamela.



Thanks very much for your detailed response, I'm quite overwhelmed by the great ideas and support from everyone here.

You're right, of course, I went out at the wrong time. I must try and discipline myself more and be more patient. I saw it was a lovely day and how nice the flowers looked so went for it. I've never used a diffuser or a polarising filter, so will look into that - more new learning for me. I can, though, easily try some card or something behind the flowers and will give that a go over the weekend. I was thinking of cutting it and bringing it inside to try some different backgrounds, but will give it a go in the garden. I have been using some free photo editing software and haven't got Photoshop or Lightroom, although this is something I am considering. I have done some basic editing but haven't tried completely changing the background in a photo. I'm not sure how to do that, so will have to look into that too.

Thanks for the link to the article too, it clearly shows the difference that backgrounds make.
24 Jul 2020 9:48AM

Quote:Mary, I'll answer your question with a question. First though, I think the image has lots of promise for other images down the line. The nice things about flowers is the ability to go back and take more. Now, did you intend for the main flower to be completely in focus? Would you prefer it to be in focus or are you only trying to make the center stamens of the flower the main element of the photo? I don't find that the second flower adds anything, but separating the two with more focus on the main flower would likely help in my view. You may want to look into focus stacking where you shoot several shots of the flower focusing bottom to top on everything you want in focus. This must be done with a tripod without moving the camera. You merge these images together to achieve a fully focused flower. There are many tutorials online for focus stacking with Photoshop or a focus stacking software called Helicon Focus. Let me know if you want more detailed information about focus stacking. As you look at the image, do you see the bright green at the bottom right and center right going right up to the flower? These are highlights that distract from the rest of the image. When looking at any image, the eye goes to the brightest areas of the image, the highlights. Highlights where you don't want them are called rogue highlights and should be avoided. You can fix this by darkening that corner and/or adding some vignetting around the frame. Although it's fine if you like it, I personally would eliminate the purple frame because it draws the eye away from the focal point, the flower. I hope this helps.


Thanks for your comments and that my image shows promise. When looking at the flower in the garden I liked how it looked side on and wanted to capture that, although I do know that diagonals work better as is shown by the helpful mod 1 above. I've heard of focus stacking, but haven't tried it. I haven't got Photoshop, so can't try that at the moment unless you can do it on some free software. I am considering purchasing it or Lightroom. I've had a quick look at the Helicon Focus website and can see there the beautiful clear images. It's definitely something to aspire to. No-one seems to like the coloured border, so I won't do that again, but I will experiment with different ones. I like the drop shadow borders, but haven't found out how to do them yet.

Thanks for taking the time to give me your thoughts. It all helps!
dudler Plus
16 1.2k 1679 England
24 Jul 2020 10:39AM
You've got an awful lot of advice above, Mary, and there's a risk that it will be confusing.

Of course, everyone chooses their own route, but my strong suggestion is to leave things like focus stacking for later. First, master the camera, because if you don't do that, everything else will be teetering on the brink of failure.

Once you've learned how to control depth of field by adjusting the lens aperture you will be in a position to decide whether to use focus stacking.

Go as far as you can with the basics, and then see what other tools to add to the saw, chisel and hammer. You may not need a convex spokeshave or a router yet - or, indeed, ever.

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