Who doesn’t love flowers? Such vivid colors, they brighten up any scene and make a fantastic gift for friends of family members. Floral photoshoot is such a gratifying genre that some people shoot flower photography throughout the year. I indeed belong to that group of photographers. Bright colors, a beautiful overall look, and so much joy you can get. What is not to like about a flower photo session? However, before you jump headfirst into this genre, I want to share some of my experiences and tips on flower photography. I sincerely hope you can use these floral photo shoot ideas in your next sojourn.
Use a tripod
It is a good idea to take a tripod along with you. It will be your most important decision to improve your flower photography. Make sure the tripod can carry the weight of your camera and lens and does not wobble around in a light breeze. Make sure to turn off the lens’ image stabilization and the cameras in body image stabilization. Body and lens-based image stabilization will otherwise look to stabilize any non-existent camera movement and continue to ‘stabilize’ in what is known as an endless loop of feedback.
Shoot with a wide-open aperture
With a wide-open aperture, you can cover a busy background by making the background appear blurry. We also call that focus effect in photography or shallow depth of field. This is a great way to capture beautiful flowers. Compare two photographs with the flower standing in front of a busy background. Take one photograph using a wide-open aperture and the other using a small aperture.
Notice how the two images compare. You’ll notice the one with the shallow background appears to have the flower pop out of the background and look distinctively more appealing than the second image, where the flower stands in front of a busy background.
Use the correct lens to shoot with
Please choose the correct lens; it can make a big difference in your images. By far, macro lenses are the best for shooting flower images. They can help you capture fine details in flower petals etc., which are otherwise impossible to be caught. Apart from macro lenses, you can also shoot using telephoto lenses such as the 70-200mm zoom or the 300mm zoom lenses. Zoom lenses are great for capturing shallow fields that help isolate a flower from the background.
Did you know a short telephoto lens like an 85mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 can also be used for shooting flower photography? You can also use a shorter prime, like a 50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4.
Some photographers prefer using the lens reversal method. They use a lens reversal adapter and then mount a prime lens in reverse to shoot small subjects. The problem with this setup is that the lens has no connection with the camera body, and basic things like aperture adjustment must be done manually. If the lens you’re using does not come with a manual aperture ring, it will get stuck at the smallest one.
What is the ideal focal length to shoot with?
There is no one best way to shoot a classic flower photo. Just as there is no single focal length that gives the best images. You can start with a dedicated macro lens, and these lenses tend to start from smaller focal lengths. The 40mm f/2.8 prime Nikon is great for shooting with a DX camera.
At least get a 60mm prime for someone using an FX camera. The better option would be the 105mm prime. Nikon used to make one that they recently discontinued. You can still get one on ebay or at a pre-owned sales outlet. Canon still makes one that you can get to bolster your camera kit.
Choose an interesting subject
When you’re photographing flowers, choose your subjects carefully. Always look for interesting aspects that you can focus on. Remember, you’re using a macro lens; therefore, you can zoom in and focus on small elements that the naked eye can miss otherwise. Focus on the petals, the anther, the stigma, and the filament, and make those stand out from the rest of the flower.
Where to shoot at?
Some of you may be asking, at this point, where to shoot at? There are a zillion different places that you can shoot at. Before taking some flower shots, you don’t have to wait for spring flowers to blossom. Your city perhaps has a botanical garden, which is a great place to start. If not, you can visit the nearest flower shop and spend some time shooting there with the permission of the florist.
Fresh flowers grow everywhere. You can visit the nearest local park, a small garden you may have, or if anyone has one in the extended family. There are opportunities galore, even when you are driving on the road. Once I was driving down the highway and found these beautiful sunflower fields on the roadside.
Lucky for me, I had my camera and a 70-200mm lens with me and decided to indulge in a small photo shoot. Great photos require a bit of hard work, an element of luck, and a little bit of carpe diem. So, keep an open eye for opportunities that may come along the way.
Avoid hard lighting
One thing that you can avoid is shooting in hard lighting. The worst time to shoot a photo is when you’re shooting under the mid-day sun. Flower photography and other genres like portrait photography are also challenging to carry out under this lighting situation. Hard lighting produces hard shadows and obliterates details otherwise visible in soft lighting.
There are techniques to avoid hard lighting and modify it to your need. You can put yourself between the sun and the flower and cast a shadow on the flower. The shade will have the effect of softening the light. There will still be enough light, and the shade will produce a light ideal for capturing flower photos. The other alternative is to use a reflector. The effect will be the same.
Incorporate a person in the shoot – Floral photoshoot
Here is a fun idea to incorporate into your next floral shoot. Have a subject stand and pose as a portrait model while you incorporate the frame with flowers. Floral portrait shoots are a very interesting subgenre that incorporates a liberal dose of elements from both flower photography and portrait photography.
Have you seen beautiful portrait images where cherry blossoms have been used in the foreground and or background? These photos look breathtakingly beautiful, with the soft out-of-focus effect blurring the flowers and the camera focusing on the face, which stands out sharp in focus. The beauty of the flowers accentuates the visual appeal of a beautiful model’s face.
The basic idea is to incorporate flowers in the scene as a prop, background, or foreground to accentuate the frame. Let’s say you want to capture the essence of spring or summer in your portrait photos. All you can do is ask the model to place a flower behind the ears, which immediately invokes a sense of the appropriate season. Have the subject stand in the middle of the frame with hundreds of flowers around the frame, and your picture is complete.
Full-length portraits in a field of flowers
If you are stuck for fun photoshoot ideas, here is something you can work with. Have your model stand in a flower field. Set your camera and set the exposure and focus. Then ask your subject to start running toward you. It would help if she wore something appropriate for the occasion. Flowy dresses with floral prints are perfect for such a shoot. This is a tricky shot because the subject is moving closer to the camera. It would be better to make this shot using a camera with excellent subject tracking while autofocusing. Also, this shot is a better shot with a DSLR
Wearing a flower crown
One way to capture an interesting photo is to ask the subject to wear a flower crown. Of course, you are incorporating the subject into your floral shoot and trying to incorporate an interesting photo idea by combining the two elements. This can be made even better if you use a fast wide aperture and a shallow depth of field in your composition. Different flower arrangements will accentuate the frame and help build the frame with a perfect pop of color.
One way to take this arrangement and incorporate an interesting frame is to use flowers of a single color and then ask the model to wear a dress that matches the color palette.
Keep the flowers a blurry foreground
One interesting way to incorporate the flowers is to keep them in the foreground and blur them out using a wide open aperture. That means the subject or the model will be in focus, and the flowers will be out of focus. This is against the common practice of not keeping something prominent in the foreground that’s out of focus. But this can be a welcome change and a great way to capture a spring photoshoot.
Shooting indoors can help you to eliminate the aspects that sometimes can make your life miserable when shooting outdoors, for example, wind. Wind can mess up your composition and make your pictures blurry. There is no way that you can control the wind in an outdoor location. But when you bring the entire setup indoors, you can control that and the lighting and, with it, the composition.
You can incorporate different elements in your images according to your need and take time to setup the overall composition. You can also spend a lot of time to get your focus correct and use a macro lens in order to fine tune the composition.
Incorporate a flash
One of the best ways to photograph flowers is to capture them using artificial lighting. Treat flower photography the same way you would normally treat a portrait image, and you will understand what I am trying to stress here. Exploit the different angles and the floral patterns.
The of easiest ways to use a flash is to ensure that it is fired through a diffuser and never fired bare. Just like you would use a softbox or a strip box to fire the flash through it, you can use the same setup for shooting flowers. You would probably be thinking, how can we set up a complex flash lighting setup outdoors? The answer is you don’t need to. You can bring your favorite flower indoors and set it up as you would normally set up a portrait session.
You would need flashes or strobes, softboxes, light stands, some black foam core, and a table to set the flowers. You also need a flower pot, a jug, or something to put the flowers in when arranging them.
The purpose of the black foam core is to work as a light-absorbing material preventing light fall off to the rest of the background. The foam core can also be used as a background for the flowers to ensure that the final image is moody.
With a flash, you can experiment with different kinds of lighting. You can use soft lighting that accentuates the flowers’ pastel shades. You can also use a bare flash as a hard lighting source that will ensure that the textures and fine patterns on a flower are highlighted.
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A floral photoshoot can be done in a multitude of ways. You can incorporate a model or use flowers to create a beautiful arrangement and take photos. Remember that you use the right lens and lighting, and don’t forget to experiment with your compositions. Incorporating a model wearing a floral-printed dress will no doubt accentuate the whole shoot.
You can use a floral pattern with the color of the subject’s dress and the flowers to incorporate a single-tone look, experiment by using a floral crown or shoot single flowers to experiment with the looks. Most importantly, you don’t always have to shoot outdoors. You can even set up a shoot indoors using props and artificial light to bring everything in your control for better results.
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