Spring – Time for Flower Portraits

8 Tips for Capturing the Natural Beauty of Flowers

05-07-2012 // Rob Sheppard

Spring is here! Flowers are blooming all across the country. They are such a beautiful part of spring and make terrific subjects for photography. Here are some ideas on how you can get better photographs of flowers:

1. Get down to the level of the flower.

California poppies, Montana De Oro State Park

Flowers are often photographed from above because it's easy to do. Yet flowers often look their best when you are down at their level.

Cameras that have tilting LCDs can make this much easier to do, but if you don't feel like putting yourself on the ground at the level of the flower, just hold your camera down there and take the picture.

Check your results in the LCD and retake as needed.



2. Remember that a flower photograph is not the flower.

Lupines, Paso Robles, California

Simply pointing a good camera at a flower is not going to guarantee a good photograph of that flower. The flower may look great, but a photograph of the flower is a different thing. Play back your image on your LCD and take a look at it as a photograph, not simply whether the flower is in the picture or not. Do you like this photograph? Is this something that you would be happy to have displayed on your wall?



Monkey flowers, Santa Monica Mountains, California

3. Watch your background.

Even if the background is out of focus, it can still challenge your subject.

Watch out for very bright areas in the background that attract the viewer's eye away from your subject.

Look for simple backgrounds behind your subject.



4. Use sidelight for texture.

Find a flower that gets lit by the sun coming from the side and you will discover all sorts of interesting textures appearing in that flower.


5. Use backlight for glowing colors.

Prickly phlox, Santa Monica Mountains, California

Move around so that the sun is behind your flower subject if the flower has translucent petals. That backlight can make those petals glow, especially if you photograph them against a darker background.


6. Try a telephoto focal length for soft backgrounds.

Zoom your lens to its most telephoto position and try aperture priority with your aperture or f-stop set to the smallest number (which is the largest opening for your lens and makes backgrounds soft).


7. Try a wide-angle focal length for environmental portraits.

Rock nettle flowers, Death Valley National Park

Zoom your lens to its widest setting, then get in close to your flower subject. This will show your flower with its surroundings to give a feeling of its environment. The background will have detail in it, so you would need to pay attention to what is going on back there so that there are no big distractions to your subject.


8. Get out and take lots of pictures!

Rock nettle flower, Death Valley National Park

Once you own a digital camera, there is no cost to taking what the pictures, so why not?

Look for different angles, shoot from different distances, change focal length and so forth.

Try all sorts of things because the more things that you do, the more likely you're going to find a variety of images that you like. And erase the stuff you don't like!



Rob Sheppard is a photographer, writer and photography teacher in southern California. He is the former editor of Outdoor Photographer and PC Photo magazines. Visit his blog Nature and Photography for more photography tips.


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