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Category Archives: Photographing Flowers
Since my return from Paris, I’ve had lots of chores to catch up on in my garden. After working many hours last week, I thought I deserved a reward at the end of one day, so I took a little break, went in the house and grabbed the camera and my macro lens. Normally, I like to photograph the flowers early in the day while they are fresh after awakening from the cool night, but this was going to be my last chance at some of these. Some were already beginning to fade to make room for what would be coming next. I had to use a bit higher ISO (200-400) because of the overcast day and the wind gusts. I am becoming enchanted with the shallower depth of field in some of these. Some were handheld while crawling around on the ground; others were shot with the help of a tripod and a break in the breeze.
It truly is a miracle, what can happen in less than a month. This is what I saw when I looked out my back door on May 2.
I find it frustrating to come upon a picturesque scene when I am out looking for landscape subjects and there are power lines or other distracting elements that are impossible to shoot around. Taking a shot is a waste of time and even though it doesn’t cost anything to take the picture, I am learning to pass on situations like that. But out in your own garden that is not the case…when you see something that is a distraction, just snip it out. This shows how doing a little manicuring can make a difference. (Click on the image to see full size.)
In the final, I replaced a bloom on the edge with foliage because it was drawing attention away from the center of interest. I then made tonal and hue adjustments and added a vignette to help keep attention on the flowers.
Since I use only natural light when shooting on my tabletop studio, I consider reflectors as an indispensable piece of equipment. I use them to throw light into the dark side of my compositions. Comparisons of their use can be quite dramatic. Luckily, the cost of purchasing them is small compared to other photography gadgets. A 12″ reflector cost $10.99. Most purchased reflectors are circular with fabric over a flexible metal frame that can be collapsed into a much smaller size and come with a zippered bag for storage. Usually, they are gold on one side and silver on the reverse. The gold is useful for portrait work since it adds warm color along with the light, but I have never used the gold side with my tabletop studio because it can introduce unwanted colors into the scene. I use a small, 12-inch reflector for adding light to smaller subjects, and keeping in mind the angle of the source light, I point the reflector into the shadow side, holding it as close to the subject as possible without getting into the frame. Larger subjects need a larger size, and a sheet of white foam core can be pressed into service as a reflector, too.
Here is a comparison of what a reflector will do on a cloudy day indoors with south-facing window light.
The small 12″ reflector that I used can be purchased at B & H Photo, and are handy for working outdoors in cloudy weather, too.
In the introduction to my Still Life Gallery, I made mention of the fact that over the winter I set up a little studio on the top of a folding card table placed next to a south-facing window in a spare bedroom. Besides being able to take more pictures during the cold months, I learned a lot more about my equipment’s capabilities (and mine). There also was an advantage in setting up a scene, taking a few shots from different angles and aperture settings and then immediately taking the card into the next room and viewing the results on my computer. With this immediate feedback, I often found things on the big screen that I didn’t notice on LCD of the camera and I was able to go back to my studio to make adjustments.
Basic Studio Setup
I have heard that you can buy a roll of white paper at an art supply store for the background, but I happened to have a supply of white polystyrene. I stapled a length of it to an old wooden yardstick, and with the help of a stand, I drape it across a card table. If your space allows light in an area close to a wall, the background could be hung on a nail, I suppose. Because the light from the window in wintertime can be feeble and usually requires a longer exposure, I use a tripod and a shutter release. Another must-have is a reflector for directing light into the shadow side of the subject, and a diffuser for softening harsh light. I already had a stand to hold the background material, so this basic setup cost less than $25.00.
Useful Equipment for Flower Photography
Shown here are the tools I often use when photographing flowers. There is the reflector and diffuser mentioned above, a favorite vase, scissors for trimming flowers and a container of cold water to help keep the flowers fresh. Behind the three daffodils pictured here are a couple of sheets I made with the gradient tool in Photoshop and printed out on presentation matte paper to use as a background for smaller subjects. The square-shaped black object just behind the scissors is a frog, a useful little gadget for flower arranging. This one will hold water and has metal spikes that will hold stems in place. The other two holding the white daffodils are ones that my local flower shop sold me. Below is a photograph I made using one of my homemade colored backgrounds and three or four frogs holding a $5.00 bouquet of daisies.