Flower Photography by Steve Shor

On March 21st I gave a short presentation at our CCC meeting about some of the ins and outs of flower photography. I am repeating some of that information here for those who may be interested but didn’t attend the meeting.

  • Focus: While auto focus is great you will find that often your camera ends up hunting for something to focus upon. You will be well served to learn how to use your manual focus. Be forewarned that some lenses have excellent manual focus abilities while others are kind of sloppy.
  • Composition: look for patterns, color schemes, graphic lines. Observe from standing kneeling perspectives; even get right down to ground level. Observe from a distance as well as very close.
  • Sharpness: It is very difficult to have everything in focus with flower photography. You may be better off looking for “selective focus”: Which is some part of flower in focus and rest is a pleasing blur or softer.
  • Background: Backgrounds can make or break your image. Try not to have too much distraction around your main subject. Remove broken twigs etc. Sometimes it helps to carry a 3×4 foot piece of black or gray fabric to cover unsightly background.
  • Blurred background: You get better blurred background with longer lenses that have large aperture (unfortunately these are the most costly).
  • Enjoy your experience: take the time to really look around. Decide what captures your eye/imagination and work with that.
  • Do a lot of handheld looking and shooting before you decide to set up your tripod.
  • Lighting: I prefer to use natural light but some people like to use off camera flash or a ring flash. Overcast day is actually best for flowers but almost any lighting can work.
  • Lenses: my two favorite lenses are the Nikon 105/2.8 Macro and the Nikon 80-400/F4.5-5.6 zoom. I also have a 200/F4 macro and a 300/F4 that I sometimes use.
  • Metering: some people say “spot” metering best but I personally do not see much difference between that and the “av” metering.
  • Extension tubes: essentially spacers – allows one to get closer to subject but sacrifice some depth of field. Kenko makes tubes that work with several manufacturers and costs about $200.
  • Close up lens: like a magnifying glass. Canon makes a very good one called Canon 500D (+2 diopter). Costs about $50-150. Screws onto front of lens and allows one to get very close but limits depth of field significantly.
  • Teleconverters: contains optics: extends lens by 1.4X or 2X. lose 1F stop for 1.4X and 2 F stops for 2X. These are more expensive costing about $250-500. Handy to have in your bag however.
  • Diffusion and reflectors: Diffusion screen can help when bright sunlight. Reflectors can help direct light onto some part of flower. Cost about $50 – 100.
  • Remote shutter release: handy to have or can use self timer on camera.
  • Tripod: whatever works for you: A good head is needed so you can adjust camera to many different angles. Some people use a “focus rail” which gives precision adjustment forward and backward. Also want a tripod that can be set up close to the ground.
  • Small foam kneeling pad: can make it much more comfortable for you when kneeling or laying on the ground.

Macro Tutorials:

Focus Stacking:

Focus Stacking using Photoshop CS5 (some people having problems with CS6):

Extension Tubes:

Good Overview:

Good Book:
“Fine Art Flower Photography” by Tony Sweet
Tony Sweet Flower Photography Blog: http://www.networkedblogs.com/blog/tony_sweets_flower_photography_blog

Video by Tony Sweet: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F8_btceWWlA

On-line Classes and Photo workshops:
Mark Lissick:

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