Spring is a gorgeous season to go out and take beautiful photos. It’s all about colors and sunshine. What could be better for a photographer than experimenting with flower photography and seeing the world through the lens? In this article, we give you the best tips on how to photograph flowers, provide inspiration for professional photographers, and add some technicalities for beginners.
After reading this guide, you’ll have some new flower photography ideas; get a better grip on what angle to choose and what techniques to consider before pressing the shutter release button.
1. Take time to prepare
First things first, you need to get all your gear together; choose an adequate lens and gather the equipment you may need out in the fields. Flowers are a great subject for macro photography. If you have a macro lens, this is the time to use it.
If you don’t have a macro lens, don’t worry, any lens from 50mm to 200mm will work.
You’ll often need a tripod when photographing flowers. It’s not very comfortable to carry a tripod around, but your photographs worth it. A tripod will help you avoid blurred images on windy days, when you get very close to your subject, or when you want long exposures.
2. Choose the right lenses for flower photography
Start exploring your lens capabilities. Lenses have a minimum focusing distance, which tells you how close to a flower you can get. Each flower shape, structure, or color requires an individual approach.
To show the beauty of a wide range of plants, you need to use different lenses. For close-up images, where you perhaps only capture the stamen or part of a flower, it’s better to use a macro lens. If you want to capture the beauty of small flowers from the distance, it’s better to use a lens with a focal length of 50-200mm.
3. Find the focal point
You need to make your subject stand out. This is a valid rule for any type of photography. Many flower photographers place the subject in focus and the viewer is never in doubt where to look. You don’t need to place it always in the center of the frame. Use the rule of thirds, the golden rule, or the golden triangle rule to place your flower (or your subject) in one of the most appealing positions in the frame.
I want to remind you about the rule of thirds; it states that the image should be divided into nine equal rectangles by two horizontal and two vertical lines. The essential elements of your photo should be placed on these lines or at their intersections.
For example, when you shoot a field of flowers, the skyline should be set on the lower or upper third of the frame, just like in the image below.
4. Highlight your subject
The main subject of your photos should be sharp and clear. Make sure you remove everything that could distract the clear view of the item, both from the foreground and background. There are multiple ways to get rid of distractions, such as:
- frame the photo in such a way that distracting elements don’t enter the final composition;
- move the distractions if possible, without harming the elements and disrupting the natural flow of the scene;
- decrease the depth of field (use larger apertures, get close to your subject, use telephoto lenses);
- move the subject if possible, without harming the elements and disrupting the natural flow of the scene. Don’t pick up flowers to get a better image. The purpose of flower photography is to reveal natural beauty not to harm the environment.
5. Live View is your best friend when photographing flowers
Live View allows you to better frame the picture and decide where to position critical elements. However, you can use the live view mode only with a tripod. Otherwise, your image will turn out blurry.
Adjust the camera’s position if necessary to achieve the composition you want, and then switch to the manual mode and press the shutter release. This technique is also useful when you take macro and close-up photographs.
6. Go wide
Sometimes you can get a better image when you look at the bigger picture. Most photographers shoot flowers only from small distances and lose the opportunity to get a fantastic landscape shot. It may be a good idea to focus not only on a single flower or flower petals but also on the entire field.
You can get so preoccupied with details that you forget to take a step back and see the whole picture. After you make a few close-up images of flowers, switch to a wide-angle lens and see the full scene. Environmental shots are perhaps the most unexplored area of flower photography. It may also be more challenging to maintain a clean and well-balanced composition when you photograph a larger scene.
I would say that 98% of all flower photos represent either a few flowers in a bouquet or macro shots of parts of flowers. Great wide-angle shots of flowers are rare, but if you manage to do them right, they’ll be a great addition to your portfolio.
7. Don’t forget about lighting
Usually, you shoot flowers outside where perfect daylight does the entire job for you. You don’t need any specific lighting equipment. However, natural lighting conditions are unpredictable, and you might need to use flash, a reflector, or a diffuser. They provide natural, diffused light and help you illuminate the areas that are in the shadow.
The beauty of flowers can be captured with backlighting or lateral lighting. Stand right in front of the sun and let the light illuminate the bulb from the back. It creates a stunning glowing effect for a flower. Photograph during the golden hour and capture flowers with the beautiful golden light on one side.
8. Create abstract images
Flowers allow you to be creative. Contrasting colors, patterns, and natural textures help you create stunning abstract shots. Don’t be afraid to experiment with this photography genre.
Abstract nature images invoke a sense of creativity and mystery. Such shots allow us to observe all pieces of the picture and find an interpretation. You may get some interesting images when you change your point of view. Flowers aren’t a new subject matter and many other photographers were there before you. Unless you find a new perspective and a unique way to tell their stories, no one will notice your work. Try to find unusual angles, flower petals with usual shapes, or time of the day when flowers show an unseen face.
9. Take pictures on a cloudy day
Not all sunny spring days are suitable for flower photography. A cloudy day provides a natural soft light that highlights the delicacy and tenderness of the flowers. This is a good time to pick up your gear and go for a flower photography session.
Direct sun rays on a sunny day can produce unaesthetic shadows. Usually, you avoid shooting at midday. That’s not the case on a cloudy day. And because you have less light, you can adventure to try long exposures as well. Use a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light that enters the camera and be able to expose for longer.
10. Avoid windy days unless…
One of the biggest challenges in photographing flowers is the wind. It moves the subject all the time and produces blurred images.
You can turn on the tracking focus (on Nikon cameras this feature is AF-S) that will focus on waving flowers if you are not too close to your subject. Another way to avoid the wind is by using fast shutter speeds, for example, 1/800 or higher. You can also use your body or an object to block the wind from reaching the subject you want to photograph.
Or, you can use the wind in your favor and create atmospheric shots, dreamy long exposures, and dynamic images of flowers.
11. Don’t be afraid of backlight
Natural light plays a key role in flower photography and produces the best images. The ideal time of the day for shooting is early morning and just before sunset when the sun is not so bright. It is recommended to use a tripod and live view to track your composition and focus.
Try to place the flower between the camera and the rays to create an impression of the light penetrating the petals. Creating silhouettes also works very well with flowers.
12. Get a closer look
There are several ways to take a photo from a small distance. You can use a telephoto lens and zoom in as much as possible. Super telephoto lenses zoom up to 600mm and work very well with larger flowers or groups of flowers.
If the flower is too small, you can use extension tubes or close-up filters, which will increase the object’s size. Other alternatives are using a macro lens or getting physically close to the subject.
13. Change perspective
The most stunning results come from unusual angles. Imagine you get a flower bouquet and you hold it close to your face to smell it. Or imagine the bridal bouquet flying over the crowd. The idea is to avoid photographing flowers as neutral objects sitting on a table. Try to capture the dynamism of the moment. Don’t take all your pictures from your eye level. Get to the flower’s level, see the world through its petals, elongate its stem, and capture its grace and symmetries.
14. Use macro photography
Did you ever ask yourself how professional photographers take close-up images in which you can see a bee collecting nectar?
The answer is quite simple – they use macro lenses. With a macro lens, you have a 1:1 magnification ratio or higher. It’s the only way to achieve this result. Due to magnification and close camera-subject distance, macro photographs have a shallows depth of field. Sometimes it will be impossible to have the entire flower in focus. At the same time, you’ll get rid of a distracting background without even trying.
To go even closer, such as a 2x magnification, you can use an extension tube in combination with a macro lens. Watch out for the thin slice of sharpness, which might be too narrow for looking good, even for close-up images.
15. Water drops work perfect with flower photography
You probably know the fantastic photographs featuring drops of water with the most bizarre forms and reflections. Water drops will add a nice touch to floral photos.
Of course, the easiest way is to organize shooting after the rain or at dawn when there is dew on the plants. However, it is not difficult to create a water drop effect; it is enough to use a spray bottle.
16. Avoid clutter in the background
When shooting flowers, you must carefully choose the background. Remember that white and light flowers look very bad on a white background.
There is no universally correct or incorrect background color. Everything, of course, depends on the task, but the color of the background should not distract from the main subject. In order to flatter a flower, you may need a background in a contrasting color, one with a different oriented texture, or a plain desaturated background. Change the position and angle of the camera until you find the perfect background.
Keep in mind that close-up and macro images have a shallow depth of field that results in a blurred background. If you want to reduce the background to black or, on contrary, increase the depth of field and have a sharper background, use flash.
17. Think outside the box
Most flower photos are quite dull and do not convey the colors and textures that you see in reality. Try to shoot the flower from a different perspective and the picture will have a different illumination. Or you can choose to frame just a part of the subject such as flower petals or a stamen. Treat the flower like you would treat a person. Leave space in front of it, get to the flower’s level, and capture its feelings and emotions.
Such images intrigue and leave room for fantasy. It is an excellent approach to evoke the viewer’s curiosity.
18. Experiment with sunlight
If you are going to shoot flowers with sunrays, then the best time of the day is in the morning or during the hour before sunset. In the daytime, the light is too bright, and you will have to use a diffuser sheet. Otherwise, the harsh light will wash out the colors and reduce the contrast.
Too much light affects the quality of the photo because it blurs the texture of the petals and leaves and reduces the contrast depth. It is also essential to use an angle from which natural light comes from behind the plant. The best setting for this is an aperture around f/16 to allow the sunrays to turn into starlight like above. Thus you can get a beautiful background.
19. Use a shallow depth of field
Working with depth of the field is a good solution to add a nice blur element to your flower photos. A shallow depth of field will enable you to highlight your subject while keeping everything else softly out of focus.
This can be achieved using a wide aperture. Aim for an aperture of f/2-f/5. Compensate a large aperture with a faster shutter speed to avoid overexposing your photos. For outdoor, nature photos, ISO value should stay at 100. The camera-subject distance also affects the depth of field. The closer you are to the subject, the narrower the depth of field is.
20. Be creative
Photography is an art, and it is you who is setting the rules. Only you can decide what should be eye-catching in your composition, how to play with the light, and how to interpret the relationships between elements. Follow your feelings and do not be afraid to create something new and nontrivial.
The most important thing is to give you enough time when it comes to photography. First observe and understand, and then press the shutter release.
21. Don’t forget about post-processing
Sometimes even the most boring and dark image can be saved with proper post-processing. Lightroom allows you to enhance light and colors on your image, increase clarity, remove noise, fix exposure, and create atmosphere.
Besides, using similar photo editing techniques you can develop your unique photographic style. If you have a preferred set of settings in Lightroom, make sure you save them as a preset. This way you can apply the same adjustments to other photos and create a consistent portfolio.
22. Focus on sharpness
One of the most common causes of blurry shots in flower photography is shaking hands. In this case, you can use a tripod and remote control, stabilize the camera using anything you have at hand, or set a faster shutter speed. Another cause of blur is lack of focus. This is even more important to get absolutely right when doing close-up and macro flower photographs. Focus manually and take several pictures of the same scene to make sure you capture the right focus in at least one of them.
23. Location is not as important as you’d think
Many beginners mistakenly think that success in photography implies a lot of traveling and shooting in exotic places. This is entirely wrong.
If you photograph flowers, you can find them everywhere. You need to turn around and explore flowers in your neighborhood: parks, gardens, home plants. Start experiencing today to enhance your skills and reach success soon.
24. The best camera settings for flower photography
It’s essential to use the correct camera settings for flower photography. You will get the best results by going with a fast shutter speed and a low ISO value. The aperture value depends on how close you are to your subject, the size of the area you want in focus, and how much of the background you want to hide. Usually, I would suggest that you stay in the area of f/2 – f/10 unless you try to achieve something creative such as including the star effect on sunrays pervading in your flower photo.
Since flowers don’t move (except for windy days of course), you can use a single focus point and keep the focus locked, at all your shots using the composition of your flower and background. If you intend to include an insect in your shot, you will have to change the focus method, unless you have your camera on a tripod and pre-focus, and simply wait for the insect to land or hover in the right place.
Want to learn more about macro photography?
Flower photography is the result of observation and exploring your options, in a slow-paced process, where you enjoy working with a beautiful natural subject. You need to understand how light works and develop attention to detail. You should be patient enough to return again and again to the same place and add a temporal dimension to your compositions. Only this way your efforts will be rewarded with stunning photos that will not leave the viewer indifferent.
Do you have experience with flower photography? Let us know your best practices and results and what motivates you to get outside and photograph flowers.