Flower shooting tips

Joined
Apr 24, 2005
Messages
6,099
Location
Denver, CO
mcampos said:
Thanks Charles,

Do you use the reflector to block light from the highlights or to add light in the dark areas?

Whatever you are doing it is working great, your flower shots are outstanding.
I remove the reflector material and use it as a diffuser. This softens the light. It helps to have a remote release and a tripod. :)
 
H

hawkbug

Guest
Some of my most popular gallery photos are of flowers, or should I say portions of flowers. People seem to get a kick out of seeing flowers from a slightly different perspective and I enjoy hunting for that different kind of view. My point to all this is, there is no right way or wrong way to photograph flowers. It's all about what feels right to you. The best way to learn is just get out there with your camera and shoot, shoot, shoot. In time you will start getting the results you desire as long as you keep at it.

A few tips: Avoid shooting in the bright noon day sun as it leads to flat images devoid of interesting light and shadow. If you must shoot under those kind of conditions try using a diffuser as Charles mentioned, this will keep you from having to deal with mass blowouts.

Get a good macro lens, or if money is tight, buy a close-up lens.

If possible use a tripod, or monopole. Otherwise practice you hand holding technique and shoot as wide as possible.

Use manual focus and bracket your shots by using tiny focus adjustments between shots, which is another good reason for using a tripod. If you like to shoot in close, like me, use focus to draw the eye to various parts of the flower. Don't be afraid to experiment with focus, remember there are no rules.

Work the flower to find the picture within the picture. Shoot from every conceivable angle and when you have shot you’re your last angle find one more angle and shoot again. After all the film is free.

Finally, be on the lookout for really great light. The late afternoon, or early morning sun can magically transform even the most ordinary of flowers into an amazing work of art.

Here's a sample of some of my work.

Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)


Hope that helps.

Hawk
 
Joined
Apr 24, 2005
Messages
6,099
Location
Denver, CO
Re: What I think about when shooting flowers

I just saw your post Ed. I under expose depending on the flower or color. Red roses for example. The diffuser helps to reduce the dynamic range of the scene much like adding fill flash.

ednaz said:
You're all worrying about a lot of the same things I do, particularly blown highlights. Because Mom Nature optimized flowers to attract insects (propagation depends on them) flowers reflect enormous amounts of infrared and UV light. Insect eyes are much more sensitive to those parts of the spectrum, with some insects relying almost completely on UV to zero in on the best flowers. That's a big part of what makes them so hard to shoot. Anybody who's shot orchids in strong light will have noticed what looks like little shiny speckles all over the flower that are blown out even though you worked really hard to get detail in the white areas that you could see. The sensor sees spectrum you don't see - those little speckles are reflective crystals (for want of a better word) that reflect UV really efficiently. You usually can only see them once you get the flower up full screen. Causes much cursing in my house.

With flowers, I do something that I seldom do with any other subject, which is consciously underexpose and pull the images up in processing. Yes, it produces a smaller dynamic range, usually, and makes images look a lot more saturated, neither of which bother me at all with flowers. Doing this can actually produce images with saturation so intense that you'll have trouble printing them, out of gamut warnings everywhere, unless you use a perfect paper/ink combo. But it does produce gorgeous, rich images.

I also learned to bracket depth of field options - I almost always shoot one or two images fully stopped down for max depth of field, and a few with various different DOF, right down to as wide open as the light will let me go. I don't think there's any right answer here, and because DOF preview is often so dark you can't really see much anyhow, I'm not sure of any other approach. This lets me make a choice between high and low DOF in a more relaxed, thoughtful mode than trying to think about it while rushing to beat the changing light.

The other thing I do all the time is shoot with flash, usually highly diffused. This makes the IR and UV problem worse sometimes (flash is full of IR and UV) but gives me more range for isolating the flower from the background (use a high shutter speed with small aperture, and everything outside of the flash range will be black, which saves me from carrying around foam core), working without a tripod (ditto ditto), etc. With the flash, I sometimes reinforce the sunlight direction for dense shadows, sometimes shoot with an emphasis on shadow fill. If you see a guy out there with camera in right hand, flash on a long cord in left, contorted into absurd positions to get both items at the right angles, that's me.

Last, I don't like to spray the flowers, or use backdrops, or move leaves, or any of those sorts of things. To use an analogy, I feel like those things are like fishing in your swimming pool, not sporting at all. Now THAT is a pure quirk. Doesn't even make sense, really. But I never said I wasn't weird.
 
Joined
Apr 14, 2005
Messages
96
Location
Norwalk, CA
Thanks Hawk, those images are outstanding. Do you use any extension tubes in addition to the macro lens?

And thanks everyone else for all your responses, great tips, all I have to do now is go out and shoot. Here in California it seems to be easy, there are flowers everywhere.
 
H

hawkbug

Guest
Mike, no I do not use extension tubes just a 105mm f2.8 Sigma macro lens or a 50mm f1.8 Nikon. One of these days I plan on playing around with extensions, but for now I am having too much fun.

Hawk
 
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