The Art of Flower Photography

Wild climbing rose. Canon 50mm macro, 1/60th sec @f4, ISO 200. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Wild climbing rose. Canon 50mm macro, 1/60th sec @f4, ISO 200. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

It doesn’t have to be trite or cliché. Like all other photography, it really depends entirely upon the attitude and approach you bring to it. So leave your assumptions at the door and let’s take a look!

I decided to write a post about shooting flowers because of the incredible, amazing Spring that has burst forth here is south Louisiana these last couple of weeks. I don’t know if it’s due to the relatively cold (and long-lasting) winter we’ve had, the amount of rainfall or what, but the blooming flora around me has been truly amazing, and I’ve been drawn to shoot it.

Wisteria blossoms with repeating bokeh pattern. Canon 50mm macro, 1/100th sec @ f5.6, ISO 200. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Wisteria blossoms with repeating bokeh pattern. Canon 50mm macro, 1/100th sec @ f5.6, ISO 200. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Like anything else though, you can casually take a few snaps, or you can really try and make some great photos. I’ve gone out on several occasions and made images, many of which you’ll see here, and that’s led me to spend some time thinking about how to shoot flowers without every exposure being simply an exposure, rather than a photograph.

Here are my how-to tips for making more flower photos that you’ll actually be glad you shot:

FRAMING

How you frame the shot is critical. Look for interesting compositions and juxtapositions: maybe a group of blossoms together? Maybe one contrasted to a darker background? Try and challenge yourself to come up with unique and interesting images.

Top to bottom: Boring, Better, Best. Top shot is a glob of color, not much more. The middle image shows a bit more effort at finding a compelling composition. The bottom photo takes the middle shot and refines it further, tightening up the framing and realigning the vantage point. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Top to bottom: Boring, Better, Best. Top shot is a glob of color, not much more. The middle image shows a bit more effort at finding a compelling composition. The bottom photo takes the middle shot and refines it further, tightening up the framing and realigning the vantage point. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Look for interesting compositions and juxtapositions: maybe a group of blossoms together? Maybe one contrasted to a darker background? Try and challenge yourself to come up with unique and interesting images.

FOCUS

How to get the focus point you need. This can be tricky. Maybe you need a shallow depth of field because you don’t want the background competing, but you need certain things in focus. So be aware of the plane of focus as you shoot. Always remember that the thin focus plane that your camera is fixed on when shooting with wide apertures is parallel to the back of your camera. Keeping this in mind, you may be able to reposition yourself and your camera, changing the angle you’re holding it at relative to your subject, to get more of what you want in focus. Then:

When focused in close, you’ll find that it’s actually more accurate to acquire focus, recompose your shot, then carefully move your body ever-so-slightly forward and back to acquire the sharpest focus point(not on a tripod, obviously). Try this and you’ll see how well it works!

This antique rose was shot with just this technique, focusing, recomposing, then carefully moving my whole body slightly in and out to find the critical focus point. Canon 50mm macro, 1/50th sec @f2.5, ISO 200. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

This antique rose was shot with just this technique, focusing, recomposing, then carefully moving my whole body slightly in and out to find the critical focus point. Canon 50mm macro, 1/50th sec @f2.5, ISO 200. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

COMPOSITION

If it’s boring, you’re probably not close enough! This is frequently the case with flower photographs. If you shoot a few frames and find the whole thing is a yawner, try getting in really, really close! Do you see some new possibilities now? Flowers are amazing creations but some of the best aspects are up really tight.

Camellia blossom. I liked the off-center, tight composition for this image. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Camellia blossom. I liked the off-center, tight composition for this image. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

THE LIGHT

Get out early and late. When the light is softer and nicer. Sometimes you’ll see a wonderful flower image midday, but I like early morning and late afternoon light for this type of shooting. Another great time to flower hunt: right after a rainstorm! There’s nothing like mist and water droplets to bring some of these images alive.

Louisiana Iris. 50mm macro, 1/60th sec @f2.8, ISO 200. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Louisiana Iris. 50mm macro, 1/60th sec @f2.8, ISO 200. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Related articles on the web:

13 Alternative Flower Photography Tips at Epic Edits

41 Delicious Flower Photographs at  Digital Photography School

Spring Flowers at the Nature Blog Network

Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

23 Comments on "The Art of Flower Photography"

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  1. Great article and gorgeous photos, Andrew! I love Spring for the bountiful amount of beautiful flowers that it brings. Thank you for sharing.

  2. This one was fun to put together. Thanks Miguel!

  3. John says:

    A wide variety of excellent photography to go along with this overview of shooting flowers. Finding new perspectives, angles and compositions of the same flowers can be a task for a photographer in Springtime. Thanks for adding some creative inspiration with your post!

  4. Daniele says:

    You have some incredible photos. Thank you for being generous enough to share some of you tips. The flowers in NH are just starting to pop, and I am certainly going to put some of your information to good use and experiment.

  5. Thanks Daniele! I hope your flower season is productive, photographically!

  6. Denis says:

    Excellent work! Excellent photos. Excellent post altogether. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Fantastic post however , I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Many thanks!

  8. Thanks for commenting, Maurice. In another month or so Spring will begin here in south Louisiana; I’m sure I’ll be drawn back out into the garden then and the flower posts will reappear!

  9. Kate says:

    You have been really generous here. Your techniques are so perfect, producing such beautiful pictures!!
    I am especially drawn to your antique rose photo. Hope you don’t mind me copying it onto my computer screen. I am not yet any good at taking pictures still struggling with understanding the basics but, i would love to learn and take a picuture like you do…. Big thanks for sharing your techniques!!

  10. Glad you like it, Kate.

  11. Maria says:

    Hey Andrew,

    Thank you for sharing your tips. I have personally just started to take pictures (as a hobby) and now that summer is just around the corner I was actually planning on doing a lot of flower photos. After all… flowers don’t move 🙂

    Any suggestions on what lens to use?

    Kind regards,
    Maria

  12. My favorite is my 50mm macro. So much of the beauty is up really, really close. You want to be able to capture that.

  13. Maria says:

    Thanks Andrew. Will any 50mm macro do or are there variations? (I need to know what to tell the guy in the photo shop) 🙂

    /Maria

  14. selena says:

    Hi this was a great post. The photos are lovely. I love taking photos of flowers and fields of flowers but upclose i always seem to get blurry or under exposed shots. 🙁

    Selena,
    Author at Cellulean

  15. Flowers already possess one of a kind beauty and uniqueness. And being involved in a photography is an interesting activity. Both amazing! I think I should have that best camera.

  16. Charles says:

    These photo’s are truly amazing! The thing I like about photography, as opposed to video, is that “moment in time” aspect that it captures. Whether it is nature photography, like your photo’s, or people and their emotions, photography stops time for that instant. The saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”, captures the sentiment of what I’m trying to say. Now if the search engines can only find a way to capture the beauty of pictures and “rank it”, the Internet would be perfect. Unfortunately for us, Google and the other SE’s need a thousand words to rank a single picture. 🙁

  17. debbiep says:

    the focus points on these shots is amazing

  18. I also love to learn those techniques! I greatly admire your work! How I wish I have such brilliant skills and talents.

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