Flower Power-Shooting

Every time I see flowers, I take out the camera.  It’s just one of those things I do.  Like Winnie the Pooh’s attraction to honey, I beeline to flowers without fail.  With so many varieties out there, it never gets boring.  Different colors, different shapes, different feels, different fragrances… and I shoot them all at different angles.

I’ve tried shooting flowers with my point-and-shoot and it isn’t the same as the dSLR.  That “face recognition” stuff is nice and all but it effs up my process.  And I have not yet mastered the manual settings on my p-a-s.  Call me Lazy.   So with the dSLR in hand, there are four things I do when photographing flowers:

  1. Keep the composition simple.
  2. Set up the exposure for a short depth of field.
  3. Use the Rule of Thirds.
  4. Walk all around that SOB to get several different views.

Simple composition makes sense.  Flowers are already colorful, you don’t need an elaborate set up to make it look good.  A shorter depth of field allows you to “tell a story” and helps keep it simple.  By focusing on the flower in front of you, everything behind becomes bokeh and the flower stands out.

Walking, climbing, standing, crawling, laying… I’ve done it all in the name of photographing flowers.  When I’m Waterfront Park, the bums give me a strange a look.  Which I’m fine with because no matter how many times you ask me for cigarettes, I still don’t have them.  That tends to happen when you don’t smoke.  Weird, huh?  But my photos usually turn out much more interesting.

Last November, I walked down to the Waterfront to practice.  I do this quite often as it’s basically out the back door of my building.  Anywho, the irises were out in full force while everything else was dead.  So I decided to practice on them.  I probably had about 40 shots of a single bloom – but no two were the same.  This is the best example I could find to show how to look at one flower from different angles.

I took this one at eye-level, making the center of the flower my focus.  With the center being taller, I shot it vertically.  Though you can make out the ruffles of the iris, the color is competing with the blue sky behind it.  Time to try a different angle.

An Iris View

I shot this one at eye-level as well, only I found a difference view.  I focused on the entire bloom and decided that a horizontal shot was best.  Just moving around the flower made a big difference.  The Rule of Thirds are in place, drawing your eye to the left of the frame.  The light through the trees provide a beautiful bokeh background.  And you can even see some of it’s iris friends hanging out back there.

An Iris View

Enough with the eye-level shots.  Let’s climb up and shoot directly down.  A totally different view of the same flower.  My only problem with this photo is that I didn’t use the Rule of Thirds very well.  But it can be cropped to make it a more interesting shot.  I do like how the purple pops against the green leaves.  That mother nature sure knew what she was doing.

An Iris View

Then I started rolling in the dirt.  Actually, I remember lying on my back on the concrete wall of the planter and then craning my neck to get this shot.  If you haven’t tried shooting below the flower, please do.  The veins on the back of the petals are beautiful.  We can see the green veins on the iris stretching out into the ruffled purple petals of the iris.  Again, the color is competing with the blue sky but it’s a completely different perspective.

An Iris View

One thing I’ve learned with the 50mm lens is step into and away from the subject.  I didn’t have the 50mm when I took these, but I still managed to step back and created a different story with the depth of field.  The buds in front are in focus and the shot blurs the further back the stems are.  But that iris in the middle still draws in your eye.

An Iris View

The next day, I went straight back to the irises to experiment with my ultra-wide angle lens.  The outcome was satisfying.  I continued to experiment with the u-w lens on other flowers but nothing else has turned out to be as cool.

An Iris View

Tell yourself to just keep moving around the flowers, shooting at different angles.  It pays off.  One more thing you can do is to move the camera.  Vertical, horizontal, cock-eyed – it’s all up to the photographer.  But with flowers, sometimes just turning the camera can make all the difference.

Earlier this week (while I was staring at the hydrangea) there were these funny tall flowers with cone-like blooms.  Distinctively, I took some shots of them with the camera horizontal.  It’s interesting, I used the Rule of Thirds, the purple is striking against the greenery bokeh.  But I wasn’t satisfied.  I had about five shots that looked like this one.

Purple Flower1

And then one that looked like this.  Just by turning the camera vertically, the flower took on a totally different feel.  The Rule of Thirds are still at play but now we can see the length of the flower, it drawing your eye down the photo, showing you how skinny and tall this bloom actually is.  I like this one much better.

Purple Flower2

Now remember, I’m a just hobbyist so you can’t believe everything I say.   This is just how I do things.  Who knows if any of it is right.  I’m sure there are professionals out there who share their experiences too.  But I think the best way to learn is to practice.  And roll around in the dirt while you’re at it.

To learn more about Brooke and see her recent work, visit her new site at brookemurphyphoto.com. Follow Brooke on Facebook or Twitter.

October 20, 2009 - 11:17 am

katie - I actually took some shots of flowers the other day. I’ll try to post them tonight…thanks for the flower shot tips, lord knows I needed them. :)

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