Spring is a fantastic time of year to get outdoors with your camera as nature is bursting with so much energy and colour. A walk in the woods in springtime will reveal a myriad of wild flowers, our gardens and parks will have plenty of subjects to photograph too.
With the advent of digital photography we are all photographers, but what makes one photograph really stand out from the others? The answer to that is there is no single correct way to photograph flowers, however, certain elements do have to be taken into consideration to make a great shot.
Firstly before you start, in your cameras settings, select the highest possible resolution. This will give you clearer detail in your photographs, enabling the image to be used larger without signs of bluriness or noise.
Time of day is an important consideration when taking your photographs, the early bird really does catch the worm! Harsh midday sun makes most subjects look unflattering. Early morning or late afternoon are the best times of day as the light is warmer, less harsh and the colours of the plants look richer. Mornings also tend to be more still, flowers are hard to photograph when they are moving around too much. Windy days are the toughest to photograph flowers on, unless you wish to use the blur creatively with a slower shutter speed.
Weather. Many people are surprised to hear that overcast days can be very beneficial for garden and flower photography. This is because clouds act as a perfect light diffuser creating even lighting and saturation without the worry of harsh highlights or shadows. If its a sunny day with clouds and you want some sunshine in your shot, wait until the sun first starts to appear as the light is again less harsh.
Consider your subject before rushing to photograph it. Walk around and see what you are drawn to, see how the light plays on the flowers. Think about your composition, how is the subject going to fill the frame? Backlit flowers will always look good if the petals are transluscent as it accentuates the colours of the petals, giving off a luminesence and showing off the patterns. Don`t be afraid to try out different angles, getting down to the same height as a flower is very effective, or look up to flowers from below them.
The background of your photograph is very important as untidy, busy, cluttered backgrounds kill a shot as the viewers eye gets distracted away from the subject. If there are shadows use them to make the flower stand out, or move in closer to the subject.
For close ups I would always recommend the use of a tripod, they allow you to frame the flower perfectly and keep the image sharp. Also look at the flower to see it is free of blemishes or missing petals. If you are going to hand hold a camera, as a very general rule of thumb with a standard lens 1/60th of a second is the minimum shutter speed to use, with longer lenses such as a 200mm look around 1/250th of a second to avoid camera shake. For checking correct exposure always check your histogram not the LCD preview.
Finally break the rules, experiment, have fun, especially as we now have digital photography. Try out those new angles and backgrounds, you might be surprised with the results you obtain.
When photographing wildflowers be careful not to tread on other flowers. Leave them just as you found them for insects and others to enjoy.
I would love to see your photographs, please feel free to send me a link.
I am running wild flower photography workshops in Stroud and the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire in May 2014: further details can be found on my website: www.stephenstuddphotography.com