Flower Photography

April 30, 2010 at 9:49 pm (Flower Photography, Mahalo Writing, Photography, Writing)

Since writing this blog I have had all of my content removed from Mahalo, per my attorney and will make my articles available here as time permits.  In the meantime, check out this blog post for some good, quick information.

I Love Spring... but I can't wait for Summer!

If you want to skip directly to the flower pictures, scroll down…


Here it is nearly May and I think the Central Oregon weather gods are finally going to cooperate and allow springtime to turn her face in our direction.

Winter has been blustery, gray, dreary and just generally cold and miserable.  Adding insult to injury, our furnace decided to die last week.  The repair company didn’t have the part in stock, and it being a Saturday meant that the part couldn’t even be ordered until Monday. 

Luckily for us the weather remained gray, but it only dipped below freezing at night.  The second stroke of luck (where preparation meets opportunity) is that my husband and I built this house with our own four hands.  Anyone who knows my husband knows that he tends to overbuild things.  He framed this house in 2 x 6’s and we have blown in insulation in every wall, not just the exterior ones.  Upstairs, the house remained about 65 degrees even when the temperatures outside dipped into the 20’s, which was tolerably comfortable.  The ceramic tile in the kitchen downstairs was a bit chilly on the feet in the morning, but we survived it.  However after five days with no heat I was pretty happy to see the repairman, and I am happy to say he did a wonderful job.

What does all this have to do with taking pretty flower photos?  Well, nothing except that because the promise of spring is finally in the air, the daffodils are bobbing their cheerful heads in the brisk breeze blowing over the Cascades, and it makes me yearn to create some pretty flower photos.

I wrote a Mahalo How To page recently on How to Photograph Flowers.  I really like writing for Mahalo, though the one drawback is that including my own photographs to demonstrate the methods I am writing about is limited.  So I thought I would include a few here, and if you are interested in learning more about floral photography you could check out the Mahalo page as well.

Flowers are among my favorite subjects to photograph.  They are nearly always beautiful, they are easy to pose and don’t complain.  They photograph beautifully in natural light so I don’t necessarily have to set up studio lights to photograph them and though the array of colors is stunning, they often photograph well in black and white because of their beautiful form and structure.


Flowers translate very well to macro photography.  I use a dedicated macro lens most of the time to capture a 1:1 ratio, but the macro mode (as indicated by the tulip or flower symbol) on compact digital or point and shoot cameras works very well for those of you that don’t have the macro lens.

Use a tripod.  Tripods are important when photographing flowers if you want to maximize the sharpness of the image.  For most people absolutely sharp focus isn’t that important.  I submit photographic images for stock and sharp focus on the correct focus point is absolutely critical.  When using a macro lens or macro mode your depth of field will become very shallow.  Just swaying a bit as you snap the photo may carry the lens forward or backward enough to cause the image to lose sharp focus.  Attach your camera to a tripod to mitigate your own movements. 

Light is all important in photography, and flower photography is no different.  Using an on camera flash will often leave you with less than desireable results.  If you don’t have enough available light to hand hold your shot, put your camera on a tripod and select a longer shutter speed (if your flower is static and not swaying with a breeze), select a higher iso, or light your flower with an off camera light source that has been diffused, or use a reflector to bounce light where you want it.  There are lots of right answers.  You just need to be creative.

And while we are on the subject of lighting, don’t photograph the flowers in high direct sunlight.  Many flowers have a reflective surface which will bounce light back to the camera in the form of specular highlights (hot spots).  Shoot when the sun is lower in the sky, in bright open shade, or use a white sheet or piece of ripstop nylon or a shooting tent to diffuse the light.

Don’t neglect composition when taking flower photographs.  The subject is likely beautiful, yes, but without interesting composition, the image will be boring.  Utilize the Rule of Thirds or use of diaganol and triangular composition.  Don’t shoot bulls-eyes.  The flower may be the center of attention but that doesn’t mean it needs to be centered.

Oh, and keep it simple so your viewers know what the subject of the photograph is.  Picking out a single rose in an image cluttered by lots of roses (if that is your goal for the photograph) will be difficult unless you isolate it with selective depth of field, lighting, or some other photographic technique.

Below are some examples:

Red Sunflower Sunrise

You don't have to photograph the entire flower for a strong composition.

Sweet Pea Blossom on Black

Keep it simple for an elegant image. Use of side lighting to rim the stem and lower blossom. Many flowers photograph well against black.

Blackberry Blossom

Use shallow depth of field to isolate the subject of the image

Dusty Miler

Another example of shallow depth of field to draw the viewer's eye to the tightly curled frond. Notice that the point of focus is not dead center in the image.

Lily Leaf

Strong diagonal composition, strong saturated colors, interesting back-lighting to show the structure of the leaf. These are the original colors as caputerd on Fuji Provia film.

Bright indirect lighting, use of the rule of thirds for composition.


An example of bright direct sunlight causing specular highlights on the poppy's glossy, reflective petals.

Interesting lighting, rule of thirds composition


Diagonal composition, bright indirect lighting, monochromatic color choice.


Use of diagonal composition and red against red for this floral still life.

Another diagonal composition. Emphasis on texture as well as color.


Here is a macro shot featuring the anatomical details of the lily. Not only is color an element of the image, but shape and texture as well.

Know when to break the rules. This is a centered (bulls-eye) composition but it works well because of the symmeterical nature of the shot.

Simple white background, soft backlighting, diagonal composition. Anyone can make images like this. No special lighting was used. This was set up against a south facing window to blow out the background to white. The exposure was determined by metering very close on the base of the tulip.


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