Tips for Taking Better Flower Photos
There may be several things that tempt you to take a photo of a flower, whether it’s the vivid color, elegant form, or the striking patterns of its petals or leaves. However, all too often the results turn out to be disappointing. It’s easy to end up with a lackluster snapshot—a record shot—with little artistic merit. How can you avoid that? This article aims to improve your flower photos and increase your chances of an occasional masterpiece.
The Art of Flower Photography
Perhaps we should discuss artistic merit in relation to flower photography. Many people look at flowers and admire them, and a lot of people photograph them, so what can you do to make your flower photos stand out? The biggest mistake you can make with flowers is assuming they’ll automatically make a good photo. Some subjects have more potential than others, obviously, but you still need to find a way of taking an effective picture.
The only thing you ideally need for flower portraits is some form of a close-up capability. I survived for ages at a serious garden photography level, armed with little more than one or two SLR bodies (crop-sensor or full-frame), a 90mm macro lens, and a tripod. I sometimes used other lenses, but 70-80% of my horticultural photos were of plants taken with that one macro lens.
Be aware that manufacturers misuse the term “macro” for marketing purposes. A true macro lens usually offers 1:1 magnification. Which is to say that, at its closest focusing distance, the lens will produce a life-size image on the film or imaging sensor.
Crop Sensor versus FullFrame
About crop sensor versus full frame cameras; if you were to take an identical flower photo with a full frame and crop sensor camera, you’d have to be farther away from the subject with the crop-sensor camera to achieve the same composition. Since the camera-to-subject distance affects depth of field, this means you effectively get more depth of field with a crop sensor camera. This is neither good nor bad, it’s just a real-world difference between one camera type and another.
Close-up on a Budget
There are cheaper ways of taking flower close-ups than buying dedicated macro lenses. Close-up filters, extension tubes, and reverse-mounted lenses are all options. Most compact cameras and Smartphones also allow close-up shooting. The only downside is that this is nearly always at a wide angle, which distorts the subject and doesn’t give much control over the background. Still, you can take flower photos with any camera. Specialist gear will broaden your creative palette, but it isn’t essential for good photos.
Using a Tripod
The last piece of advice I’d give on gear would be to invest in a tripod if you can afford it. This isn’t compulsory by any means, but carrying a tripod is a bit like carrying another two or three lenses. It gives you more artistic choice and improves the technical quality of your photos.
Choice of Subject
Choice of subject is an important aspect of flower photography that many casual photographers overlook. A pro garden photographer will never just stroll up to a flowerbed and start snapping away.
Instead, there is a careful process of looking for a good specimen to photograph, which means the flower is not badly damaged or decaying. Minor damage to a flower can be “repaired” in Photoshop, but it helps to look carefully at your subject before setting up a picture. Some species do not stay at their best for long and will present you with more difficulty than others in this respect.