Flowers are without a doubt one of the most photographed subjects. It isn't hard to see why - we are surrounded by them, and their wide range of colours, shapes, and sizes mean that you rarely have to venture far before you find one that catches your eye.
Unfortunately, many people make fundamental errors when photographing flowers. This can result in shots that lack "punch", appearing much less interesting and vibrant than they did in person.
There are several principles that you can follow to give your flower photos more impact, capturing lots of detail and making them engaging to the viewer. By learning these guidelines, you'll be able to spot an underwhelming photo before you capture it, and reframe the shot in a more interesting way.
Choose Your Subject
Decide what the subject of your photo is going to be - is it a single flower, a bunch, or a whole field? You will usually get a more interesting photo by shooting a single flower, or a few flowers - larger amounts tend to end up looking cluttered, with no real focal point.
What is it about your flower that interests you most? It might be the head of the flower, individual petals, the leaves or something else entirely. Choose your viewpoint and composition based on this, getting in nice and close.
Don't be afraid to crop the edges off the subject; doing so often allows you to focus the viewer's attention even more closely on the real area of interest.
Look around to see if you can include anything else in your shot to add interest. When photographing an individual flower this might be something like a bee or spider; when shooting on a larger scale, such as an entire field, there might be an interesting building or piece of farmland machinery you can include.
Colour is Everything
In flower photography, colour is one of the most important things to include. A rich, vibrant shot will look infinitely better than one which is dull and dreary. If shooting outside, choose a day with plenty of bright, natural sunlight to really bring out the colours in your flowers.
Texture and detail can turn a good photo into a great one. Flowers have both in spades, but you can often enhance them by lighting your flower from the side, so that the subtle shadows really pick out the surface details.
Get Set Up
Focusing is crucial to a good flower photograph - if your shot is even slightly out of focus it will carry significantly less impact. Switch your camera to manual focusing mode and really take the time to get your flower as sharp as possible. If your camera doesn't offer manual focusing, use macro mode so that you can keep your flower in focus even at very close range.
Open your aperture wide to throw the background out of focus. This will draw the attention towards the flower, creating a more engaging, intimate photo.
Mounting your camera on a tripod is a must when shooting at such close range and with a narrow depth of field - even slight movements can mess up your careful preparations. With the wind blowing your flower about, the last thing you need is for your camera to be moving too.
Be mindful of shadows from your equipment or your body ruining your photo. Choose your viewpoint carefully and be aware of the sun's movement if you plan on staying in the same place for a long time.
Wait. Then Wait Some More
Patience is a virtue when it comes to flower photography. Be prepared to spend a lot of time lying on the floor, finger poised on the shutter button, just waiting for your flower to stop swaying about long enough for you to photograph it. On mild days you hopefully won't have to wait too long, but sometimes the wind can be a real problem.
To help keep your flower still you may want to set up a makeshift shelter using an umbrella, or get a friend to sit in the wind's path. Alternatively try holding the flower's stem to stop the shaking - just be sure to keep your hand and shadow out of the shot!