Here Are 17 Creative Tips To Help You Capture Stunning Floral Photography
At some point, nearly every photographer will try their hand at photographing flowers, often with mixed results.
Post-processing techniques can help. But many of the variables in flower photography are handled before the camera shutter even clicks (for instance, arriving early in the morning to your chosen spot). The key to really nailing this is to know how to properly set up the shot.
If you have a fondness for nature and exploring the outdoors, but haven’t experimented much with flower photography, you can try these tips on your next hike or even in your own backyard.
Photographing flowers can be one of the hardest things to do. Many people think flowers are easy to photograph, and this can be true as flowers are very photogenic. But not all flower photographs are created equal.
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Just like any good photography, stunning floral photography takes lots of time and effort to pull off. Flowers can be very willing subjects, but it still helps to know tips and tricks to get more creative images out of your shoot. If nothing else, trying out these tips will help you get out more with your camera, which is always a good thing.
Now that we’ve set the ground rules, let’s look at some essential tips.
1: Just Add Water
You’ve probably seen beautiful flower photography, where the photographer managed to get there early enough in the morning to capture the small, delicate drops of dew on the flowers that make them sparkle in the morning light.
But what you may not know is that many photographers fake this ‘dewy’ effect! Such a simple thing as a small water spray bottle can create this natural effect in a snap. Some cases you won’t need this, for instance, earlier on a cold morning or after a rain shower. But in most cases, just bringing your own ‘mist’ will look make your shots indistinguishable from the real thing!
Misting flowers accomplishes three things. First, if the flower happens to be dusty, then the water will clean it off. Second, the water will naturally bead up on different parts of the flower, making it seem more multidimensional and create more interest in your photograph. Third, the water will attract light and create make your flower appear more vibrant overall. Win-win-win!
2: Try Your Own Backyard
With other photography subjects, you’ll probably have to plan to travel to the location or schedule time with your subjects. With flower photography, all you may have to do is step into your own backyard or nearby park!
No need to travel to exotic locations to get stunning flower photography. There are plenty of places to shoot flowers in their natural habitats. You just have to look for them!
What if it’s winter where you live or flowers are in short supply (for instance in an urban city)? Head to the nearest flower shop, pick out your favorites and try your hand at arranging them in different compositions. Even a single flower can be enough for a stunning photograph.
Aside from natural trails or city parks, perhaps there is a botanical garden in your area you could explore. If not, even a garden supply store greenhouse may do! There is no reason not to practice shooting, no matter the time of year!
3: Get Closeup
There are many different ways to get an ultra-closeup shot of a flower. You could use a telephoto lens and zoom in on the flower, using the minimum focusing distance (marked on the outside of the lens) so it’s in focus.
Many photographers use a macro lens specifically designed to get up close to objects and focus on them in detail. You don’t necessarily have to use a dedicated macro lens for flower photography. But if you plan on doing this kind of photographing a lot, then it may be worth it to purchase a lens for this purpose.
Or you could use an extension which you can place between your camera and the lens, which allows you to focus on objects more close up (check out our DIY extender here). You can also use a magnifying filter attached to the end of your lens.
In shooting up close, your depth of field will be very thin, so this may result in parts of your flower being in focus and others out of focus. If you have enough available light, then you can bring your f-stop down (increase your aperture) to f/11. f/16, or even f/22. You can also increase your distance from the flower and crop down your image later in post-processing. Most modern cameras have enough megapixels to allow for this sort of ‘macro’ cropping, while still resulting in a high-quality image. Another handy technique to achieve a fully in-focus flower, known as ‘stacking’ is covered further on in this article.
If you don’t have a macro lens, fear not. There are less expensive alternatives out there that will still provide great results. Check out this video below for more tips:
4: Use Shallow DoF
With flowers, it’s wise to keep a clear distinction between them and the background, whatever it happens to be. You can do this many different ways. For example, you could use a macro or long lens, open up the aperture, and shoot the flower from many different angles.
Shallow depth of field results in an image where your subject, in this case, flowers, are sharp, with the rest of the background out of focus and blurred. By using a wide aperture, such as f/2.8 or f/4, you can achieve this effect, and it becomes even more pronounced if you happen to be using a telephoto lens. Get creative here and see which aperture settings get you closest to what you want.
When photographing flowers, especially in a natural setting, your image will be far too busy if everything is in focus. Selectively choosing where to focus and draw the eye with a shallow depth of field will result in a stronger composition.
5: Steady Does It
You want the area of your image that’s in focus to be as sharp as possible. With flower photography, sometimes this is easier said than done. Weather elements and lighting conditions can all make this rather difficult sometimes (more on wind later).
Many photographers recommend using a tripod for this reason. This allows you to hold as still as possible and maintain a shot that’s sharply focused on the flower. Combine your tripod will a cable release or your camera’s 2-second timer and mirror lockup function for the best results.
Even if there doesn’t appear to be any wind, the flower may still move (after all it’s a living plant). So if your shot is still out of focus, try using a faster shutter speed.
Of course, a tripod isn’t always necessary for shooting flowers. You can get perfectly decent flower photography shots without using one at all (see below). But, if you happen to be shooting macro or very close up images, the steadier you can be the better. You’ll likely be near the minimum focus distance of your lens and have a very thin depth of field, so any shake will be noticeable here.
Holding your camera by hand may work in the right lighting conditions, but you could also end up with a lot of blurry photos due to camera shake. Using a tripod in this case not only helps you avoid the blur, but also forces you to slow down and take your time setting up and composing your shot.
6: Change It Up
You wouldn’t take portraits using the same angle for the entire shoot. So change it up with your floral photography too!
Make sure you move around and try several different angles and compositions for interesting images. You could try photographing the flower from underneath to see what it looks like from a different point of view.
One way to get a really interesting shot is to focus through another nearby flower. Like I mentioned before, your lens has a minimum focusing distance, and you can use this to your advantage here.
To start, choose the flower that’s to become your main subject, then position yourself so that another flower is in front of your subject and very close to the end of your lens. The second flower ends up becoming a blur of color, giving your image a more abstract look.
We all see the world at eye level, so mix it up by photographing flowers from angles other than the standard. Whether it’s from below, straight down, or through another flower’s perspective, or half cropped outside of the frame, you can take your images from good to great just by changing your perspective.
7: Cut The Clutter
If you have a distracting background, even the best flower image will look messy. It’s a pretty basic tip, but overlook this one at your own peril.
So your main subject doesn’t get lost in the mess of an ugly or cluttered background, try to simplify it as much as possible! The beautiful flower in your foreground should get your full attention here. Composing the image in a way that keeps the flower the center of attention naturally creates a strong image.
Distractions vary in form. Sometimes, it’s too much clutter in your background. Other times, too much of the image is in focus. It could also be that uncomplimentary colors are competing for your eye (consider a black and white image if this is the case). Sometimes, areas that are too bright or excessively dark will distract the eye away from your subject.
To avoid distractions, try to be as deliberate as possible when planning your shot. Like mentioned earlier, setting up a tripod allows you to think about and carefully plan what you want your image to look like. If you only take away one thing from this post, cutting down on distractions and being intentional with your photography is the most important.
8: Try Live View
To properly use this tip you’ll likely want to use a tripod. Live view is a function on most modern cameras that allows you to compose the image and establish where you want the focus to be.
When live view is turned on, you can see your composition on the LCD screen and make adjustments as you see fit. Once you have the composition you want, you can then zoom in on the area of the screen you want to be in focus and switch to manual focus on your lens. Then you can use the focus ring on your lens to manually focus in on the flower and take the shot. Take a few test shots and make sure to zoom in on the LCD screen to make sure things are in sharp focus.
9: Paint The Light
One of the coolest ways to get creative with your flower photography is to use light painting to illuminate your image in a surreal way. You can utilize this technique in a relatively dark setting by using a long shutter speed and ‘painting’ light on your subject while the shutter is open.
Start by setting up your camera and lens on a tripod and compose your subject’s position in the frame. It’s best to have a remote timer for your shutter or cable release, but the self-timer setting will also do. Open the shutter to begin the exposure, and use a small light to paint parts of the flower in the light. Once the shutter closes, review your image on the LCD screen and make adjustments if needed.
Here’s a full tutorial from Youtube on how to master this technique:
10: Shoot Decay
Another way you can get creative with your flower photography is to select a flower and show its life cycle with a series of photos taken days or weeks apart from each other. You can do this with flowers growing in your own backyard or store-bought flowers (which wilt much sooner).
A really interesting way to do this is to document a flower you have a freshly planted flower or seed. You can come back every few days or weeks to photograph its growth and show its transformation as it begins to bloom, then eventually decay. You could even put together a short time-lapse video at the end of your series, depending on how many photographs you took.
11: Play With Backgrounds
Using the flash on your camera doesn’t work for every situation, but it can certainly create some interesting flower photography when done right.
Using a relatively high shutter speed, you can illuminate the flower with flash and make the background in contrast very dark or fading to black. In manual mode, you can set the shutter speed to 1/125 or 1/90 and aperture to f/5.6 or f/8. Using a manual flash on low power, you can provide just the right amount of light to quickly illuminate your subject, without brightening your background.
These settings will vary depending on the unique conditions present and the amount of ambient light you’re working with. If you’re not able to completely drop out the background with this technique, you can use the adjustment brush or shadows settings in Lightroom to easily fade it to black.
Another way to make your image pop is to play around with using different colored backgrounds against your flowers to create contrast. Bringing your own background panels or canvas will also eliminate an overly busy natural background.
12: Try Abstraction
Taking the ‘macro’ advice to the next level, you can photograph your flower extra close to acheive an entirely abstract look.
This can also be done with selective cropping if your lens is inhibited by focal length. Look for contrasting shapes, colors, textures, and light when composing your shots.
Here’s a good abstract photography tutorial to get your creative inspiration flowing:
You may be tempted to work quickly to catch fleeting effects of light and get as many angles and compositions as possible. But sometimes, it pays off to sit down, relax, and take a little time before you go into full photog-mode.
Take your time looking at your subjects. See their colors, forms, and textures. Examine them and look for ideas in how you can highlight their beauty or create a stunning composition. Visualize how everything might come together in the end.
After you take a little time this way, you may want to approach all you other photography projects with a little meditation before you jump in. Try it and see!
14: Working With Wind
When photographing flowers in their natural habitat, one of the biggest obstacles you’re likely to face is wind. Wind will make your perfectly composed subjects sway around and very difficult to photograph. But luckily, you can come prepared to defeat your blustery foe.
The most straightforward way to deal with this problem is to bring a piece of cardboard or reflector and directly block your subject from the wind. Arriving at your spot of choice early in the morning will also help prevent wind gusts from interfering with your shoot.
If you don’t need natural settings for your background, you can also opt to bring the flowers inside and out of the elements.
Another way to deal with wind is to simply work with it. You can use wind to your advantage and capture movement in your floral photography. By using a tripod and a relatively slow shutter speed, you can show an artistic image of flowers in movement as they blow around in the breeze.
15: Play In The Sun
Like I mentioned earlier, arriving early to photograph your subject in nature will help you get the best light with the least amount of wind. But photographing flowers doesn’t always have to be an early morning affair.
You can still capture stunning flower photography during the middle of the day if you do it right. Place the flower between you and the sun to create a glowing effect and allow a glimpse of light to peek behind the petals for a starburst effect. You’ll need a small aperture for this, ideally around f/16 or f/22. Be sure to use your tripod and utilize live view so you can compose and focus your shot beforehand too.
Another note here: don’t look directly at the sun through your viewfinder, as this could damage your eyes.
Also, don’t forget about the end of the day for stunning flower photography. Take advantage of the beautiful colors in the fading light of day for fiery colors and dramatic imagery.
16: Utilize A Reflector
Sometimes the prettiest subjects aren’t in the prettiest light. Your flowers may be in the shade or under thick vegetation, or cloudy skies aren’t giving you the contrast you’re looking for.
An easy fix for lackluster lighting conditions is to bring a reflector to bounce some light back onto your subject and make it look more vibrant.
If you don’t have a reflector yet, check out our DIY article for how to make one yourself here. Any type of reflective material can work here, even a sheet of white poster board or painted cardboard. These aren’t the easiest to transport and won’t hold up in wet conditions, but can work well in a pinch to get you the shot you want.
What if your reflector still isn’t providing you with the light you need? Then this may be a good time to break out your flash and experiment with illuminating your subject that way instead (see Tip #11).
17: Use a Lightbox
Our final tip comes from photographer Denise Ippolito, who uses a lightpad to illuminate flowers and create cool transparent effects.
“I started with a dead Hydrangea bloom; I removed the delicate petals from the stem and placed them in a random pattern on the lightpad. Then, I turned on the lightpad and by doing so I could see the veins in the petals.
Next I set-up my gear. For this shoot I used my favorite flower photography combo, which I call the “Dynamic Duo” – my Canon EOS 5D Mark III Digital Camera and the Canon 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Autofocus Lens, mounted on my Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. I chose an f-stop that gave me enough depth of field to cover the entire grouping. Next I exposed as far to the right on my histogram without capturing too many “blinkies” (highlight alerts). This ensures a high-key look and also reveals some of the transparency that I want in the petals. By exposing to the right the background renders bright white.”