One of the most fascinating subjects for photography are flowers. They are bright, vibrant, come in all shapes and sizes and thankfully they are plentiful. There are flowers for every season, for every reason, for every mood and for every lens!
The best thing about flower photography is that you don’t need fancy cameras and or lenses. Yes, a macro lens will take you closer and you would be able to make super sharp images of small details, but if you do it right your kit lens will provide you with excellent images as well.
The most important thing about shooting flowers, and this is presuming that you are shooting out in the wild and not inside a lobby, is to keep an eye on the lighting condition. Light will not only affect the kind of exposure setting you need for your images, but it will also affect the white balance. If you can change the white balance settings on the fly for change in lighting conditions (between overcast, to sunny to blue sky) then great. Else, set the white balance to auto and shoot in RAW to correct later.
Another thing that you need to keep in mind is to retain the details in the flowers, especially in the petals. If you over-expose the image the details will be lost forever. Always try to under expose by 1/3 or 2/3 stop to be on the safe side. If you are using a DSLR there is a meter inside which indicates how much you are off when shooting in manual mode. Simply turn the main or (and) the sub-command dials to adjust the shutter speed or (and) aperture. You won’t get this if you shoot in aperture priority, shutter priority or the program modes.
Shoot in RAW
Speaking of RAW, there are thousands of advantages shooting in RAW. I shall briefly discuss here some of them which are related with flower photography. One of the immediate benefits of shooting in RAW is it retains all the color information. RAW is a lossless format and that means you can do a lot more with RAW than with JPEG files. You can choose to enhance specific areas of your image during processing, increase saturation, bring out details from the shadows and suppress highlights. Another plus is you can shoot at higher ISO and still be able to reduce noise while processing your images in Photoshop. Higher ISO allows you to shoot at a faster shutter speed. Faster shutter speed freezes the flowers and cuts down on blur.
You can never realize the true benefit of using a tripod for flower photography unless you shoot a session without it and then follow it up with a session immediately after where you use a tripod. For flower photography in nature, a small tripod, such as a table-top one would suffice. But ensure that it can carry the weight of your camera and lens plus whatever other contraption you have attached to your camera.
Dealing with wind
Wind is your greatest enemy when you want to shoot flower photos. The slightest bit of wind blowing across the scene can ruin your composition and result in blurry images. Photographers go to great lengths in order to counter wind. They use all kinds of stuff including wind breakers, sheets of cloth and even reflectors are not unheard off. However if there is a strong wind blowing, there’s nothing that you can do except wait until it blows off.
Your greatest inspiration to shoot flower photos should be the nature itself. When I shoot I tend to draw from the scene that’s in front of me. The fresh air, the vibrant colors and the happiness that comes from being out amidst nature (and away from my computer) are more than enough for me to fire up my imagination and my creativity. I don’t need a second invitation. But if you are looking for compositional ideas, try looking at other people’s work. Printed photography magazines always inspired me when I was growing up. Today we have the internet which is such a vast ocean of information. You can check thousands of photos and draw inspiration from them.
You don’t always have to show the entire flower in your image. You can show the arrangement of the petals, zoom in on the pollens, or even highlight just one of the petals for an interesting image. Some photographers compose while laying on their back and looking up. This is an interesting way to shoot especially if the sky is a vibrant blue and the flowers have a contrasting color.