Some tips for shooting flowers

Summer is great for photographers, especially if you live in a four-season climate. It's always nice to see flowers bloom and warm weather return, and it seems like every spring brings new opportunities to get outside and capture beautiful images of nature's constant spectacle.

If you enjoy shooting flower photographs, here are a few quick thoughts.

Observe the light

Easy to do: have a look at your shadow on the ground. The sharper the outlines, the more they contrast with the ground, the more you are lit by direct sunlight. This is not really ideal for capturing fine textures and subtle color variations in flowers. Head for shaded areas or for flowerbeds located out of direct sunlight. If you can, come back on a hazier day.

A beautiful day, by most standards, has a bright shiny sun in the sky. It's how children draw them, and it's how they're represented on weather maps. This is great ...except for photographers.

We definitely prefer a bright white overcast sky, sort of like a gigantic soft-box. The softer, more even light is ideal for showing the delicate detail, fine texture and subtle color variations that make flowers so beautiful. And it's a lot easier to get the exposure just right.

Don't forget shutter speed

OK, so you've crouched down to flower height, your tripod firmly planted, so that you can get tack-sharp images. You've also framed shapes and colors just right.

This is a great time to make sure that a less-than-sharp image doesn’t spoil all this work. Don't forget that even the slightest whisper of wind can make leaves and petals move slightly and will blur your image if your shutter speed is not high enough. Check your speed and make sure.

Use a wide aperture

Generally, shallow depth of field will isolate flowers nicely from the background, with both color contrast and sharpness working to attract the viewer's eye to your chosen subject.

Of course, this doesn't mean that your lens should be at maximum aperture every time. At very short distance, the center of the flower might be out of focus even if the edges of petals are sharp. Just make sure that this is the effect you choose, not one you stumble upon. In order to get exactly the results you want, you may choose to use manual focus in conjunction with depth of field preview to make sure focus is where you want it. In some cases, you may want to stop down ever so slightly.

Embrace backlighting

Flowers are translucent. With light behind them, some flowers will reveal interesting shades and variations in color. This is a great time to temporarily disregard the old rule that says the sun should always be at your back. Take a walk on the wild side!

Get really close!

Of course, showing a complete flower in full color and detail is fine. But sometimes it can be fun to get in close and discover details that would otherwise be unnoticed. The fine edge of a leaf or petal, the velvety texture of finely colored surfaces, even a dewdrop here and there, can all help your images be really unique. You may want to look into a macro or at least macro-capable lens if you like exploring this level of detail.

Get down close, move around

This idea works for flowers but is also applicable to any photo situation. «Work the shot» by looking for new angles and a different point of view. Shooting down at flowerbeds from the same walkway everybody else uses is not going to get you an original shot! Stray from the beaten path, and your photos will offer unseen perspectives, as in every photographer's dreams.