Nothing provides new photographic opportunities better than a change of scenery. If you can’t afford a trip abroad, then a change of season will do. Springtime in the Northeastern United States is a good example. With azaleas, dogwoods, and cherry blossoms in bloom, the world just looks like a better place! And why not capture it in photographs?
Now, I know it’s very tempting to shoot the whole bush or tree to capture the grandeur in its entirety. But then you end up with something very snapshoddy like this photo at right. Instead, close in on some detail. Flowers are beautiful artistic creations in their own right. Consider using the camera to do more than document the obvious. Take the dogwoods above–their undersides were shot straight up with the sun illuminating the flowers from above!
Shooting in Macro Mode:
Following are some tips for shooting flowers. Since most are closeups, lets talk a little about the equipment required for this. It’s very simple: Point-and-shoot cameras work better than SLRs for close-up work. Their macro modes are usually so good you can usually get within an inch of your subject! The caveat is that depth of field is usually very shallow in macro mode. This makes your focus is very critical—the foreground may be sharp, but an object a few inches away will be blurred (like the flowers at left). The other thing to keep in mind is that most macro modes on point-and-shoots won’t work with the lens zoomed out, so keep it retracted. An alternative is to zoom in from a few feet away, but then you have camera shake to deal with. Either way, it’s a good idea to have image stabilization.
Tips for Shooting Flowers:
- Flowers are the one thing I shoot in color. Unless there’s a tremendous amount of contrast in the shades of the flower itself, or between the flower and its background (see the Black and White flowers above) – shapes, contrast, and compositional elements like the rule of thirds are all more critical when shooting black and white. (Notice the commanding presence offered by the larger flower in the right third of the frame.)
- Get close – Bees and bugs give scale to your flower. They also add an additional element of interest to your composition!
- Shoot up – Simply place your camera in macro mode and lay it in the grass facing up at the flowers. No, you don’t need to look through the viewfinder. Take a few shots at slightly different angles. (Make sure you keep the camera steady.) Review your work after a few shots and adjust your controls as necessary to get some cool shots.
- Shoot at the edges of the day. See how the sun creates shadows and adds depth to the dogwoods above? With a lot of contrast, you may have to play with your +/- Av or Ev setting here.
- As with any photograph, consider your background. It can add or detract from your composition. Occasionally, a curiously juxtaposed background or other picture element can really give your photo punch! (You don’t often see roses growing through razor wire.)
Springtime can be breezy. Be aware of your camera’s shutter speed! On a windless day, you can shoot at slow speeds (though you’d need a small tripod for anything less than 1/60 second. Windy days are generally not good for flower shots. Consider plucking a few and putting them in a vase. Shoot them on your windowsill from inside your house!