100 Steps to IYP – Lesson 9 – Flowers…

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This morning, I spotted a beautiful looking flower that I had not seen before. It was 5:30 in the morning. The weather was heavenly, and I must’ve stood there looking at the pretty little thing for almost half an hour. Such soft petals, a brilliant mix of pink and blue, they looked mesmerising against the rising sun.

There really is no end to nature’s beauty, is there? And we’re lucky to be able to capture it through are lil’ click-boxes ;) Jokes apart, spending time with the beautiful bloom in the morning encouraged me to write this lesson on flower photography. So without further ado, here we are:

TIP 1: Get Low
This is always the first thing I say whenever discussing flower photography, and this is the biggest mistake beginners make. Fine, you’re taller than the plant! But that does not mean you have to always look down on the flower and shoot that way. Kneel down and shoot from the level of the flower. Move around, try different angles. Of course, shooting down can also give great results at times :)

 

TIP 2: The time of the day…
Straight and simple – avoid harsh midday sunlight. It creates unpleasant shadows, and washes out the colours of the flowers. The contrast may at times look pleasing to the naked eye, but the camera sensor disagrees :) The best time to shoot flowers is early morning or late afternoon. The soft light at these times saturates the colours and enhances the already divine beauty of the blooms. An overcast day is often perfect to shoot some flowers. But a windy day will create trouble because flowers are very easily moved by the slightest breeze, and may lead to unwanted blur. A tripod of course will be of much use. In fact you’ll end up paying a lot more attention to every composition rather than shooting away without thinking.

TIP 3: The right light…

As stated above, the best light is during early mornings and late afternoons. The light then is soft and diffused, and so brings out the texture and the colours of the petals. But if you aren’t getting that brilliant soft lighting, why don’t you soften it yourself. Use a white piece of cloth, or maybe some butter paper to diffuse the light. If not that, you can also try using some home-made aluminium foil reflectors to fill in the distracting shadows. Sounds like boring work, but its pretty darn effective. Also, backlighting works brilliantly with flowers. Shoot with the light source between you and the flower, and the translucency in the petals is like jewellery!

Outdoors isn’t the only way to go. You can buy some flowers and set up a mini studio inside your own room. All you need is an external flash, a diffuser/softbox which you can make yourself, a background of your choice, and your camera. You can get an idea of the set up from the picture below.

TIP 4: Keep the background at the back…
I mean here that the background should not be distracting. Often while taking pictures of flowers, the background can be quite messy, with all the leaves and weeds and other flowers. Here you can do two things: Use a shallow DOF to blur the background, and make an effort to frame the picture such that the background distraction is minimized.
You can also make your own background, whether outside or inside. Just put a black (ideally) sheet behind the flower (prop it on some sort of stand, or get someone to hold it for you), and wallah! This generally gives better results inside though, because of the more controlled environment. Some people suggest avoiding white backgrounds as they tend to distract, but I suggest you experiment and choose the background according to the flower. A background that complements the colour of the petals is always preferable.

TIP 5: The right depth of field…
Okay, personally, I prefer a very shallow depth of field in my flower pictures (which are often macros). I like the brilliant dreamy effect it lends to the flower. But I’ve also seen many great pictures with the whole flower sharp and in focus (this is often done when shooting indoors studio style). When shooting outside, a single flower looks much better with a soft bokeh at the back. When taking a picture of say a field of flowers, however, you will obviously need to use a longer depth of field and therefore a smaller aperture.


People in flower fields make very interesting pictures. Play with the composition to avoid monotony though :)

TIP 6: Go Macro…
Flowers make some of the most mesmerising macros. They look perfect no matter the distance. In fact, the closer you get, the prettier they look. Use a good 1:1 macro lens and a tripod, and get inside the flower. Be careful not to damage the flower though.

TIP 7: Decorations!
Water droplets, snow, ice, frost and anything else that you may happen to find on a flower, including insects, is likely to enhance the photograph.

Remember, flowers are delicate and fragile, and can get damaged easily. Try your best to avoid this. And don’t pick flowers to photograph them. If you want to do that, buy some from a florist instead.

I hope you will find a difference in your pictures IF you implement these tips. I haven’t put too much on composition because that is something dependent entirely on your imagination, not mine. Go out and shoot then! And leave a comment if you like the post :)

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