All photos: Anna Norris
Spring has finally arrived, and with it some of nature's most stunning artistry: flowers. A favorite of nature photographers around the world, flowers can be a surprisingly finicky photo subject. Simply snapping a photo in passing doesn't quite do the delicate blooms justice.
With an eye for composition and a little extra attention, you can master flower photography with ease. Here are some tips to get you started.
Wait for the right moment.
Both photos above were taken in the same small meadow at Red Rocks Park in Morrison, Colorado, but one of them is much more striking. The photo on the left was taken during a cloudy moment using a zoom lens from several feet away. The photo on the right was taken from a crouched position just as the sun began to come through. To make flower photos stand out, sometimes you just have to wait for the right moment.
Choose a shallow depth of field.
A shallow depth of field allows for a detailed shot of what's closest to the camera, blurring the background almost completely. An aperture of 2.8 or less can be considered a shallow depth of field, but a word of caution: these settings let in much more light, so the shutter speed should be bumped up to account for that. Another way to keep the detail but tone down the brightness is to lower the ISO setting. The above photo was taken on a sunny day with a fixed 50mm lens with an aperture of f/2, a shutter speed of 1/4000, and an ISO level of 400.
Don't underestimate the zoom lens' macro abilities.
Similar results can be achieved with zoom lenses from much farther away – perfect for when you're hoping to capture a photo of a flower up in a tree. The above photo was taken from several feet away with a 55-300mm zoom lens.
Don't forget to capture the big picture, too.
Sometimes the beauty in flowers lies in their sheer number. When spring trees let loose, it's all good and well to capture detail shots of the blossoms, but stepping back to capture the full glory is also worth a try. Zoom lenses can do a great job of capturing the wider view because they compact and flatten the image, allowing for a detailed shot that includes every nook and cranny of what you're trying to capture.
Change up the focus.
One way to make sure your flower photography stands out is to think outside of the box. Use a manual focus to play with your options. It may be your first instinct to photograph the flower closest to the camera, but other factors (like sunlight, in the case of the photo above) can inspire a new subject.
Keep an eye out for bokeh.
Artificial light can be imposing on photos of natural subjects, but it can also be an opportunity for a more creative background. The photo above was taken at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, with a bokeh effect created by shooting with a larger aperture (f/2.0). The result? An intriguing but artistic mixture of natural and man-made.
Let the sun do the talking.
When you're out in nature, scan your surroundings to see the way the light is hitting the flowers. Don't fret when the sun is setting and isn't framing the flowers in the perfect spotlight! As in the case with dogwood tree above, sometimes a backlit photo can be just as compelling.
Don't be afraid of the shade.
If the sun goes away altogether, whether it's evening or cloudy out, don't worry. This situation can provide the perfect opportunity to capture some of the more brightly colored flowers. Softer light flatters hues of reds and purple, like the saucer magnolia flowers in the photo above.
Frame the flower with its natural surroundings.
There is beauty in context, too. Not every flower photo needs to be a close-up shot. Take advantage of fallen trees, parted branches and other foliage to frame the flower as it's found in nature.
Keep an eye out for details.
Don't forget the little guys! The smallest flowers can often be the most beautiful, if you just look a little closer. Especially in early spring, it can be easy to overlook blooms peeking out of winter's debris, but it's worth it to capture a memorable macro photo.
Pick a new perspective.
Instead of taking a head-on shot of a flower, try a new angle. That's the great thing about flowers – they're beautiful from almost any direction. A side view shows the graceful reach of the pink honeysuckle featured above.
Use insects and spiders to your advantage.
Did a bee just photobomb your flower photo? Instead of getting frustrated, take the opportunity to focus on the bee. Think of it as a win-win situation. The extra element offered by insect sand spiders is just another way to set your photos apart from the rest.
Remember the rule of thirds.
Centering the flower in the frame of your photo is a foolproof way to capture a detailed shot, but remember the guidelines of composition. Find ways to guide the viewer's eye along the photo in more interesting ways, including the rule of thirds: imagine a tic-tac-toe board dividing the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically, and try to let the focus of the photo occur where those lines intersect.
Take your camera with you everywhere.
Never leave home without your camera, especially if you're going on a hike, and especially if it's springtime. Think of it as another way to appreciate nature and make new discoveries! You never know when you'll come across a rare bloom.
When indoors, use natural light.
If you've picked flowers and brought them indoors, it doesn't mean you can't make a great photograph. Natural light still has a huge effect indoors. Bring flowers near a window and focus on the details.
Have fun with bouquets.
Flowers are lovely gifts, but they don't last forever. Use a bright bouquet as an opportunity to get creative with your flower photography, and you'll have something to hold on to for years to come.
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