How to Photograph Flowers
Macro or close-up photography is usually one of the first styles that new photographers investigate when they get their first Camera. Macro photography fills the frame with exacting detail and blocks of colour making them ideal for creating your own artwork for walls etc. This shot is a classic example of macro photography.
1 x Macro Lens - 60mm - 100mm is ideal with an f-stop of f2.8 This narrows your choice and adds to the price; however there are some cheap alternatives such as the 18-200mm lens which is not macro but does allow you to focus very closely.
1 x Circular Polarizing Filter (A handy filter to have that acts like a pair of Polarising glasses, for this shot it helps create the clarity and balance between the sky and ground)
1 x Lens Hood to fit lens (Not that necessary but desirable none the less to reduce flare when shooting outdoors)
1 x White Reflector (60cm+) (Used for creating an additional light source, cheaper than a flash and very useful. It may mean that you need a helper or if you are lucky you can hold it in one hand while shooting with the other)
1. Combine camera and lens. Attach polarising filter and lens hood. Attach to the tripod and set up your shot.
2. Compose image and frame the subject using the rule of thirds.
Composition is a subject all in itself. Our best advice is that if you are creative then trust your instinct, let it run free, do what feels good to you. Read up on the rule of thirds to give you some direction. This is the fun part so enjoy yourself.
3. Test and balance the exposure to match that of the foreground with the background. Most cameras will do this for you if on auto. However you will need to shoot this in aperture priority mode so that you can control the aperture, instead of the camera controlling the aperture.
You will set the camera onto f2.8 or similar by using the aperture priority mode: AV on Canon and A for Nikon. This will then let the camera decide the right shutter speed for you, that's right you do not need to set the shutter speed, the camera sets that for you. When you look through the viewfinder you will see a setting at the bottom that looks like this:
F2.8 showing you the aperture
Ie: 1 x 250th showing the shutter speed. (This is one, two hundred and fiftieth of a second)
Note: If the speed drops below 1 x 70th even with a tripod you will not get a good sharp image. You will need light, this is where the reflector can come in handy.
4. Be sure to use the white reflector to bounce light onto the subject. Macro photography is all about light, or the lack of it. As you are in so close on your subject you are cutting down on the amount of available light entering the lens. You need lots of light to maintain a quick shutter speed. The flowers may not look like they are moving but they are.
So position your reflector to cast as much light as possible back onto your subject. If that is not enough it's time to grab a flash.
5. Also make sure to turn the circular polarising filter to suit the darkness of the sky. Usually a circular polariser rotates, look through the view finder at your subject and slowly rotate the filter. Once the image is balanced, you'll see it when it happens, that's it.
6. Take note to keep the aperture at F4 or wider. A big aperture gives the image a smaller depth of field giving that nice blurred look in the areas that are not important and a nice sharp image where it is. This helps create focus and also adds life to the image. This is what camera manufacturers refer to when they say Creative Control, you won't get this control in a point and shoot. A narrow depth of field gets even narrower as the subject gets closer to the lens, bear this in mind when setting your shot up.
7. Using the lowest possible ISO e.g. 100 Doing this will improve the image quality. A setting of 100 is low, meaning the sensor will have a low sensitivity to light; this will affect your exposure, as the camera will now need more light to make the same exposure. So double check your shutter speed, as this will change whenever you are on Aperture Priority and adjust ISO settings.
Note: You'll notice that the ISO goes up to very high numbers like 3200! At 3200 the sensor is extremely sensitive to light, so much so that you can even take pictures in the dark. The side affect though is a phenomenon called noise, it's the fuzzy, blotchy effect you get that is not at all desirable or correctable in photoshop.
8. Re-Compose image and frame the subject using the rule of thirds.
9. Take your time in completing the shot. If the flower moves too much from wind then you need to get creative. I have seen photographers use clamps attached to their tripods to hold the flower stalk still for example.
10. Shoot like no one is watching™