Flowers are some of the most used subject matters for macro photography. They are beautiful and patient models, always ready for a photo session. Flowers are available in all seasons and locations and come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. As a result, flower macro photography is widely spread, and it is hard to come up with something fresh and define a unique style.
Many photographers believe there is nothing to do when you don’t have the luxury of an extraordinary subject. And they choose to search for exotic flowers to photograph. Yet, this isn’t the answer. Flower macro photography provides an intimate insight into the world of flowers and reveals aspects most people never see or notice. The most ordinary flowers have the most extraordinary stories, curves, and features. Here is how you can capture them in your pictures.
This post extends our general flower photography article by focusing more on the macro aspect of flower photography.
Fall in Love with Your Subject
Whether you choose to photograph rare wildflowers or houseplants, you have to start by loving them. Flower macro photography requires a strong connection between photographer and subject. If you consider flowers lifeless objects, your photographs will show it, and your viewers will feel it.
Flowers are the essence of life. Although they look fragile and sensitive, they are what keep this planet going. If you look closely, you’ll see life pulsing through their petals. Each color and shape has a precise role, and they are continuously changing. Follow their lifecycle and capture their fascinating features without harming them.
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Compose the Story You Want to Tell
The biggest mistake you can make is thinking flower photographs are just decorative. Don’t ignore storytelling; flowers have so many stories to tell. Before pressing the shutter release, find out which specific feature of the flower you want to emphasize. A good photograph starts with the photographer’s decision to convey a message.
For example, flowers can announce the beginning of a new season, speak about a location, document an event, or convey a feeling. Flowers have the versatility to carry both happy and sad messages. Furthermore, you can focus on the delicacy, or try to convey how it would feel to touch the flower by enhancing finer details like rugged texture.
Choose a Powerful Focal Point
Flower macro photography allows you to get really close to a flower and frame only a part of it. You don’t have to frame the entire flower to have a focal point. You can focus on petals, the pistil, pollen, or the stem. Each line, shade of color, or shape may be the star of your composition. However, you need a focal point to create an appealing and meaningful picture.
Decompose the scene into basic elements such as leading lines, splashes of color, shadows, and highlights. See which one captures your attention and focus on that. Macro photography needs a strong focal point, something to catch the viewer’s eye and invite them to enter the world of tiny subjects.
Don’t forget to use the rules of composition when you frame your photos. A common mistake is to place the subject always in the center of the frame. Actually, a singular subject needs negative space and perspective to really shine, not a central position.
Use the Rule of Odds for Flower Macro Photography
The rule of odds says that photographs with an odd number of similar elements are more engaging than those with an even number. In other words, a photograph with 3 or 5 similar elements will be catchier than one with 2 or 4. Therefore, if you include a few repetitive objects in your composition (i.e., petals, leaves), make sure you use an odd number.
Using one element may seem the best option for flower macro photography. It is an odd number, is catchy, and tells the viewer exactly where to look and what the image is about. However, using more elements enhances the visual story, leads the viewer from one element to another, making them spend more time with your photograph, and delivers a stronger and more dynamic image. The natural world is a world of collaboration and symbiosis. No one is alone in nature.
Work with Symmetries and Repetitions
Flowers are masters of symmetry and repetition. At the same time, their geometry is imperfect and unique. No two flowers are identical. Emerge in patterns and textures and fill the frame with lines and shapes.
Make sure your compositions are well-balanced and harmonious. Vertical patterns look better in a portrait-oriented frame, while horizontal ones look better in a landscape-oriented frame. Strong lines capture the viewer’s attention whether you planned it or not. Don’t leave anything at random. The direction, hardness, and color of lines influence the message more than you imagine.
Hide Busy Backgrounds
When you photograph flowers in a natural environment, the quality of the background may interfere with your artistic purpose. For example, a busy, detailed background may hide the subject; a colorful background may make the subject look pale, lifeless, and dull.
You have, of course, the option of moving the camera around until you find a more suitable background (e.g., photograph the flower from below or above to have the sky, respectively the ground, as background). But you also have more technical options.
If you use a shallow depth of field, you will have only a small part of the frame in focus. The rest of the frame will be blurred. Focus on the subject and blur the busy background to make the subject stand out. To achieve a shallow depth of field, use a large aperture (small f-number) or a short camera-subject distance.
Another option is to use a dedicated macro flash to illuminate only the subject. The result will be a darker background that loses its weight in the composition.
Go for Clarity and Sharpness
Flower macro photography requires extreme clarity and detail. You can blur a part of the frame using a shallow depth of field or creative lenses, but the focal point should be sharp and clear. It isn’t always easy to achieve this with a dedicated macro lens because they are sensitive to the slightest movement.
Use a tripod to avoid camera shake, especially for taking outdoor photographs. You’ll often find yourself in uncomfortable positions, and hand handling the camera isn’t the best idea. Also, a dedicated macro flash may give you the extra light you need instead of relying on faster shutter speeds and lower apertures, both settings that increase the risk of blurring the images.
Mix Natural and Artificial Light
Using flash for flower macro photography has other benefits as well. The artificial source of light provides endless freedom in creating your compositions.
You can use it to neutralize the background, make the subject stand out, or transform the subject into a silhouette. You can use flash to photograph flowers in early mornings or late evenings when they are covered in dew or frost.
A ring flash, for example, is mounted on the lens and provides even illumination. It also helps prevent you from casting your shadow over the subject. An external flash can be placed anywhere around the subject, giving you control over the direction and intensity of light. The mix of natural and artificial light allows you to be more creative and capture the scene as you want.
Try Black and White Aesthetics
Black and white macro photography limits the number of elements you work with. Without color, geometry receives more attention, and your photographs become more dramatic and artful. Because flowers are natural subjects, and the color is one of their most appreciated features, few photographers dare to give up the color.
Black & White Styles
Nevertheless, diving into a monochrome world of flowers is a unique experience. Each rib and curve has a meaning. The softness and delicacy of petals are revealed. You can go beyond the excitement of color and capture the ingenious architecture of nature.
Explore Fine Art Flower Macro Photography
Because flowers are so exciting and patient subjects, they are suitable for fine art photography. Create abstract and artful compositions using the most unusual shooting angles and revealing unique perspectives.
Use all types of contrast to enhance your visual story. Capture the entire lifecycle of a flower, from bud to dried flowers, and reveal the beauty of each stage and the meaning of the transformation. Flowers allow you to be poetic. They are a versatile medium that can express anything from remembrance (e.g., a dried bouquet) to ephemerality, new beginnings, and resistance.
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Flower macro photography allows you to enter the wonderful world of flowers and use them to convey your feelings and beliefs. You can have a natural or abstract approach; flowers allow you to be yourself on any occasion. And while they constitute a popular subject matter, flowers look different in the eyes of each photographer. You just have to choose to photograph them for the right reasons.
Let us know why you chose flower macro photography and what you love most about this genre. Is it the candor of the subject or the joy of being part of something universal?
I’m a creative writer and photographer. For me, photography is a state of mind. It’s a way of living in the moment and transform it into memories. I photograph landscapes, wildflowers, and nature with my eyes and my heart. Through the viewfinder, I see the world free of any misconceptions.