Photographing Spring Flowers
Spring is a wonderful time to get outside and take photos, and a great subject for spring is flowers. They are easy to find, you can photograph them in any weather and there are a wide range of techniques for creating interesting and beautiful images of them. Here are a few of the techniques I most frequently use.
A macro lens or macro filters are a wonderful tool for creating interesting and unique photos of flowers. They allow you to get up close and see the amazing detail we miss with our eyes that a camera can capture. I like to start with a very wide aperture in order to get a nice soft blur in the background, and adjust if I need a larger depth of field. For macro photos, it is often good to use some supplemental diffused light from flash, led panel or ring light.
With wide angle lenses, you can generally get pretty close to your subject while still capturing the surrounding landscape. This is great for photographing flowers, and I especially like lying my camera right in the grass among little flowers to take photos. When standing and looking down, small flowers may not look all that interesting but once you put the camera down among them, they can look much larger — and you can capture the landscape that they are a part of. Don’t be afraid to lay down on the ground to see what the world looks like from that vantage point. It is amazing how different a subject can look.
If you would like to reduce the visibility of the surrounding scenery and focus primarily on the flower, try a telephoto lens. I find that a tripod is very useful for this type of photography. It will allow you to better compose the image and keep the camera steady. As with macro photography, I like to start with a wide aperture and adjust as I decide how much I would like to be in focus. If you do use a wide aperture like f/2.8 at 200mm or f/4 at 500mm, with the subject at a relatively close distance to the camera, you will create a very pleasing soft/blurry background. This is a great way to separate the subject from the background and create images with a very defined focus of attention.
Flowers are great subjects for creating abstract images. This can be done in a variety of ways. Two of my favorites are macro and intentional blur. Above, I talked about using macro for getting in closer to the flower but it is also a great for this purpose. Try focusing on just the edge of a petal, pollen, the very center of the flower, or look for a texture or pattern and make that the entire subject.
Intentional blur can be a lot of fun to explore and there is no set result that you have to achieve, it is all about playing around and seeing what you come up with. A few things to try are:
- Pan or tilt the camera while taking a longer exposure — something like ¼ of a second and see what the blur of the movement looks like.
- On a windy day use a camera on a tripod to capture longer exposures of long-stem flowers or branches of flowers swaying in the breeze.
- Hand hold the camera and move it slightly during the exposure.
- You might even try taking a photo that is intently out of focus and just captures color. Play around with the degree of focus and see what happens.
Overall, allow yourself to appreciate unexpected results.
Cameras without interchangeable lenses can also create great images. Some of them have a wide range of zoom that you can utilize for creating a variety of photo styles.
Any camera can create beautiful and unique images if you take your time and experiment with the settings and focal distances. My best advice for learning is to take a lot of photos without worrying about getting the perfect shot. Sometimes, I get so caught up with trying to capture one particular photo that I use up my time and miss out on seeing other compositions and scenes. After taking a bunch of photos, review them and think about which ones you like and why, decide what types of photos your camera is best suited for and consider what you may not have captured yet. Then go back out to take more photos with that in mind.
When photographing flowers be sure to look for water droplets from rain and dew, they make very lovely images. Insects, especially when shooting macro, are fascinating additions to flower photos. Also, be sure to think about lighting. Possibly use the sun to backlight flowers or look for angles that create interesting lens flares.
Some of my favorite places to photograph Spring flowers in Southwest Michigan are Fernwood Botanical Garden, Galien River County Park, Grand Mere State Park, Lake Bluff Park, Love Creek Nature Center, Warren Dunes State Park and Warren Woods State Park.
While out taking photos, be respectful of private property, protected areas, and stay on designated trails and walkways. Always strive to take amazing images while preserving nature for other visitors and photographers.