Today kicks off a series of Friday posts on photography. I've got a stack of questions sent in by readers and you're always welcome to email me with more.
To start with, I want to recap again, I'm not an expert on everything photography related. In fact, I think even professional photographers would agree there's always more to learn. I took a photography class from Canon awhile back and the instructor told me I'm an "advanced level photographer." Whatever that means. I guess I know a lot, but I mainly know I still have a lot to learn. (To be honest, a lot of time I'm rushing and take "snapshots" which, to me, are totally different than taking photographs.)
I do have a few readers who are professional photographers. I hope they feel free to join in whenever they'd like. A few of them have already agreed to stop in to guest post, now and again, so we can all benefit from their expertise. (Squee!!)
Before we focus on flowers, I'd like to share some of my basic rules of photography. Your personal rules may differ, but these are mine.
1. The best camera is the one you have with you.
2. Getting the shot is more important than getting the perfect shot.
3. Keep it simple. The simpler, the better as a matter of fact. The goal is to get nice photos, not to make the process as complicated as possible for yourself. [If you're a professional photographer, feel free to make it as complicated as possible for yourself. Ha! : ) ]
4. The best shot is often not the one you thought you were out to capture – be flexible and SEE your surroundings.
5. Photography "rules" you learn in classes/books are GUIDELINES. It's okay to bend and even break them once in awhile.
6. Don't over think it. This goes hand in hand with keep it simple. I think the number one mistake of newbie photographers is to over think everything.
7. Be creative.
8. Give yourself permission to make a lot of mistakes.
Okay, now let's talk about photographing flowers which is our topic for today.
First, lets cover a few flower photography basics.
You can get great flower shots even with the simplest of cameras. Here are the things I keep in mind when shooting flowers:
1. Shoot at flower level (vs. shooting looking down on them) for the best results.
2. Pick a good and/or interesting flower. I know this advice carries the "duh" factor, but a lot of flowers have imperfections or are just ordinary. Find the best one you can. (No flowers blooming near you yet? Why not pick a couple up from your local grocery store or florist to practice with?)
3. Harsh/direct light doesn't work well for flowers. Just after a rain, or cloudy days are ideal. Yes, this may give you a washed out sky when the sky is included in the photo, but there are some quick fixes for that in photoshop and/or elements. As is the case for all outdoor photography, dawn and dusk provide magical light.
4. Bugs/bees/raindrops on flowers are a bonus and make your photo more interesting.
5. If you're shooting with a point and shoot, you most likely have a macro function on your camera. You can get some great shots with a shallow depth of field. Go in tight and fill up the frame with the flower.
6. I have a professional photographer friend who has taken some beautiful flower shots. Guess what? She says she "often" uses Aperture Priority Mode with the smallest number f-stop her lens allows when shooting. Yes, you read that right. She isn't fiddling with her settings on every shot. Does she always use Aperture Priority Mode? No. It depends on the situation.
With Aperture Priority Mode the camera does most of the thinking. The photographer can focus (ha!) on composition and depth of field. The results are a beautiful, in focus, flower with a soft blurry background. You can make it more complicated and go completely manual, but you don't have to. Keep it simple and get beautiful photos in the process! (Seriously, you don't have to always have your camera on manual mode!) If you're focused on experimenting and learning and also want the "perfect" shot … get the shot you want first and then start moving your settings around to see what changes.
This was taken with a macro lens, with my smallest number f-stop:
By the way, I don't always use the lowest f-stop … I often
want a little more of the background showing through.
Have fun experimenting with your aperture (f-stop) for a look you like!
7. Having a tripod set low (flower level) is key to using your macro lens outdoors. I didn't take mine to The Flower Fields last weekend and the ocean breeze wreaked havoc on my macro photo attempts. Yes, I tried increasing shutter speed to freeze the motion, but it seemed like a gust of wind would always occur right as I was about to shoot. I did get some great photos, but I ended up taking far more with my other lenses.
8. If you're taking flower photos indoors, try for natural lighting. Awhile back I shared some photos of daffodils with you. I positioned them near a window for some soft, natural, light. It worked beautifully.
Kelly sent in this question:
What's the best way to do close ups of flowers with a blurry background? Do I have to have a macro lens?
No, you don't. I only recently purchased a macro lens because I primarily shoot landscape photos and having a macro lens wasn't a huge priority for me. A good zoom lens (I use a 70-200) does an excellent job on flower shots. Take a little time experimenting with it, but you can use a low f-stop and get a beautiful, in focus, close up shot of a flower with a nice blurry background like this:
Judi sent in this question:
I have issues trying to shoot macro pics of flowers and such. Do I hold my camera close to the object or farther away and zoom? Neither seems to work consistently. Is it normal to have to try both ways?
I'd need to know what lens you're shooting with to answer this question. Some macro lenses are designed for you to be a little further away so you can take the shot (perhaps of an insect) without being as close to it. As an example, this is helpful it you don't want to scare that bee (or whatever) off the flower your photographing. Without having details, I would suggest you spend a lot of time practicing with the lens to see what works best. And yes, what works best will depend on your subject, settings and lighting.
There are shelves and shelves of books written about photographing flowers. I hope we covered enough today to get you off to a good start photographing flowers. If you have questions or suggestions or tips, feel free to leave them in the comment section.
My friend Jan suggested I add in a link-up on Photography Fridays. Would others of you have the same interest?
Last of all, I'd like to remind you to step out of your comfort zone now and then. Traditional flower photography calls for a macro lens. Despite this, my favorite photo from The Flower Fields the other day was taken with my wide angle lens. I absolutely love this photo:
I'd love to see some of your flower shots. If you have some you're proud of, send them to me via email! Depending on how many I get, maybe we can showcase reader photos once every few weeks on Photography Friday.
© Twenty Four At Heart