Education > Flowers & Macro Photography: Spring is Early This Year!
As all Texans know, the drought was brutal for us in 2011. From the Bastrop fires in September to not being able to swim in the beautiful Greenbelt all year round, we lost a lot that year to the uncooperative weather of Texas. The rain that started late 2011 and over the first couple months of 2012 that have afforded us some of that desperately needed relief for our reservoirs is also providing a great Spring opportunity for us however. The vegetation is lush (that’s Texan for “you need to mow your weed-filled lawn now”) and the early flowers are already looking healthy, so it is time to pull the Macro lens out and start shooting some local wild flowers (or just flowers in general) to prepare for the Texas Bluebonnet invasion!
Flowers are interesting subjects – flowers never move, yet they captivate and they illuminate without any kind of light source. Numerous photos of flowers are out there across the social network cloud, so how do you set your pictures apart from the masses? There are a few simple ways you can highlight the appealing aspects of flowers that will put you head and shoulders above the rest of the crowd:
Choose your subject carefully. There are a whole lot of flowers out there, pick the right one.
- Use Depth of Field to separate your subject. Get in close and single out a flower from the field, highlight that flower and let the rest be the background.
- Show more than just the flower in the back or foreground. Is it in a pot on a ledge? Indicate it’s isolation by including the container and absence of other vegetation. Is it in a field of flowers? Determine what makes this one beautiful among the rest, and focus on that when you compose the shot. Use your imagination to determine all of these things, that is what gives you that revered “style” everyone is looking for.
You have probably heard this one before: “If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough” – Robert Capa
- Try some full landscape shots. Do they just look like tourist snapshots? Get in close to a flower and take it from there. If need be, get even closer.
- Don’t just zoom in, move your feet. If you want to emphasize the size of the flower use a wide angle (Like 28mm or less) to distort the perspective in the flower’s favor after you get in close, or really separate it from the background by moving back and zooming in.
Do not be discouraged from landscape shots however, take some time on composing a sweeping photo of the scene.
- No flower should be without setting. Try a few including it all, then include some more.
Use a white background, if you can. If you can’t afford to lug all that equipment around, use depth of field and the sky.
- Truth be told, I borrowed and adapted this excellent idea from Jose Antunes’ post The Lazy Photographer’s White Background on pixiq.com. Read it, this will make more sense.
- Get low and isolate the subject flower with a shallow depth of field and expose for the flower’s dark innards. The result is a glowing flower with an almost white washed background.
See pictures below for a visual example. First is the wide-angle shot of the setting (my windowsill in my apartment, you do not have to go far to get great results), next is an average exposure, and last is the target image – highly exposed and isolated in a sea of white for that “pop.”
It’s not always that you capture the essence of your envisioned shot the first or fifth time, so be persistent before settling for an average shot.
- Digital has afforded us the ability to shoot until we get it. If you fill up your card before you do get that keeper, delete some images that do not move you and try again.
Now these are really useful tips for photographers, but some of the point & shoot camera users might find some things like controlling depth of field difficult since you will not have a whole lot of manual control capabilities with your camera. Don’t worry about it, if you at least stick to the compositional rules you’ll improve your flower photographs tenfold!