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 Flowers and Detail Photography

Flower photography is "macro" photography. You need magnification or close-up focus. Only good-quality cameras are capable of this -- an SLR camera with a zoom lens with macro focusing.

When photographing blossoms in direct sunlight, watch your camera angle, so the shadows aren't too harsh, but the light isn't too "flat" either. In most cases, the subtle colors of flowers look best when photographed (using natural light) in light shade. Strobes are tricky when working with flowers. If you're forced to use flash, you'll often "burn out" the pedals, with a washed-out flower against a dark background.

To make the delicate details of flowers stand out, you often want to eliminate background details. This is done by using a wide lens opening (smaller number f-stop) and compensating by using a faster shutter speed.

For this photo of orange globe mallow on the Church Rocks trail, I manually set the lens to f2.8, then let the camera calculate the correct shutter speed.

This sego lily near Rudy's Flat on the Mueller Park trail has a bug in the shade of a stamen. (It's harder to see at this size, but in an enlargement, it makes the photo interesting.)
"Repeating units" are visually interesting. One rose hip is boring. Several rose hips hold your eye.

When photographing flowers, it's usually best to frame your shot so there's are more than one blossom.

Here's a play on the "repeating units" theme. The out-of-focus blossoms in the upper right are an "echo" of the main subject. Because of this "echo," I've put the mallow blossoms off-center.

When shooting flowers, it's important to watch the lighting. A tiny spot of sunlight on an otherwise shaded flower will ruin your picture. Remember your eyes can handle contrast much better than your film. I take almost all my flower photos in the shade.

Flowers as a "foreground:" So far, we've supposed that the blossom is the "star" of your photo. But what about a photo with flowers or shrubbery as a foreground, with a biker in the background?

In this case, you don't want to "simplify the background" by putting it out of focus, because the "background" is your real picture subject. So you need to increase your depth of field.

These aren't flowers, but they'll illustrate the point. In this photo, the biker is framed with oak leaves. The leaves are about 3 feet from the camera, the biker 15 feet.

To keep the leaves, the biker, and the mountain all in focus, we shut down the aperature (move it to a high f-stop). To compensate, a slower shutter speed is used. For this photo, I closed down to f-22 and shot the photo at a shutter speed of 60. The small lens opening gives a good depth of field.

Please go on to the next lesson!

All photos and text on this website are
copyrighted works of Bruce Argyle.

Photo Basics

Composition Guidelines

Shooting Landscapes

Taking Action Photos

Flowers and Detail Photos

Pictures of People

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