15 Tips for Wild Flower Photography

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By Steve Russell

When I posted the article last week about personal photography project ideas one of the ideas/suggestions was photographing wildflowers. While wild flowers are generally more numerous and varied in the spring or rainy season, depending in what part of the world you live, they can be found almost year round in most places. However, because it’s when wild flowers tend to be the most profuse, spring is a great time to photograph them.

Here are 15 tips for photographing wild flowers

Use a tripod: I know that with modern cameras and lenses that have features like IS (image stabilization) or VR (vibration reduction) you can take adequate photographs without a tripod. However, a tripod and remote shutter release device of some type will greatly enhance your ability to capture great images.

Dress appropriately: Wear comfortable, loose fitting clothes. Include a hat to keep the sun off your head. Use insect repellant. You’re going to be in the “wild,” not in your back yard and in the territory of certain unsavory characters like ticks, chiggers and other insects that can cause uncomfortable reactions so as part of dressing appropriately also use insect repellants.

Leave no trace: Respect the wild flora and fauna. Don’t leave trash behind, don’t trample the wild flowers, don’t pick the wild flowers. In other words, be a good steward of your surroundings.

Take portraits: Photograph a single blossom. Sometimes the beauty of the flower/blossom is in the details. Capture an image that really shows off the flower.

Take landscapes: Often, the beauty of the flowers comes from seeing a field covered with them. Don’t become so focused on the single flower that you miss the pleasing image of a field covered in wild flowers.

Allow animals, wild or domestic, to add interest to the composition: To this day I remember a great shot of a Longhorn bull with really long horns standing in the middle of a field profuse with blue bonnets. I didn’t take the shot. I didn’t take the shot because at that moment I wanted blue bonnets uninterrupted by domestic animals. Take the shot. You can always not use it.

Use the natural terrain to enhance the photo: This shot of California Poppies on the side of a rocky slope adds to the beauty and composition of the photo. Keep in mind that part of the allure of wild flowers is their environment.

Use the wildflowers as the foreground for an interesting landscape shot: This image wouldn’t be nearly as attractive if the wildflowers weren’t part of the composition. Let the wildflowers add to the landscape even when they may not be the primary subject.

Use an interesting sky as a background: For photos like this you have to get down on the ground (see dress appropriately above). Most wild flowers grow close to the ground so you’re going to have to get low on the ground. Don’t get so focused on the flower itself that you miss an opportunity like this photographer captured.

Early in the morning or late in the evening is the best time: Early morning and late evening, also called the golden hour, provide the best light for photography in general. This is especially true for wild flower photography. Winds are usually calm or at their lightest at these times which is another huge advantage when photographing wild flowers.

Saturate the colors: Wild flowers look the best when their colors are saturated. The best way to capture photos where the colors are saturated is when it’s cloudy or when the flowers are in the shade. This is especially true when you’re not shooting in the early morning or late evening. If you aren’t in the shade and it’s not cloudy, shade the flower with something; another person, your hat (see dress appropriately above) or carry something for that purpose.

Control the light: I have a 5-in-1 reflector that I carry with me. I can use it to reflect light onto a flower, change the color temperature of the light, diffuse the light, or use it to shade the flower.

Control the wind: One of the biggest irritants when photographing wild flowers is the wind. You can always use a small f/stop which allows you to use a faster shutter speed. However, when you’re photographing wild flowers you usually want a wider f/stop to create bokeh and diminish the natural clutter that exists in the background. I use the reflector mentioned above to block the wind. Another approach is to use a relatively slow shutter speed so the resulting blurry flowers provide a sense of motion. Or sometimes I just take a break and go eat lunch or take a nap.

Make the flower pop: You can make a single flower or a small group of blossoms really stand out by completely blurring the background by controlling depth of field like the thistle, or by making the background black through the use of a flash. Some people also use a small, portable back drop like portrait photographers use in the studio.

Go more than once: Don’t just go out one day and expect to get everything. Different flowers come into their peak blooming period at different times of the year. Go out as much as you can to capture a wide range of wild flowers. Go on the internet and search for the best times in your area. It may take a little bit of effort but if you know what flowers are blooming and when, you’ll enjoy the experience much more.

Grab your camera this year and go for the wild flowers. And if you have other tips or learn some along the way, please share them here or on our Facebook page.

Photo Credits:

California Poppy byLuke Ravitch on Flickr Creative Commons
Bluebonnet by Patrix99 on Flickr Creative Commons
Wild Flowers by Ambersky235 on Flickr Creative Commons
Mare and Colt in Blue Bonnets by Pa-Paw on Flickr Creative Commons
California Poppies byRachael Ford James on Flickr Creative Commons
Colorado Wild Flowers byJeffR on Flickr Creative Commons
Wild Flowers – Teazel byMick E. Talbot on Flickr Creative Commons
Thistle by Steve Russell

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  • http://clippingpath.in/ Clipping Path

    Beautiful photographs collection, i like your list very much. Thanks a lot for sharing with us !!

  • Joe S

    Just a thought-sometimes there are lots of bees around wildflowers.  White is a non-threatening color to bees, that is why beekeepers wear white.  Keep that in mind if you are allergic to beestings

  • Steve Russell

    Great comment, Joe.  I’m not allergic so never worry about it.  I do let the bees have their flowers and find another to photograph.

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