In the February issue of Outdoor Photography magazines Holiday & Courses guide, I give my tips for capturing the beauty of plants.
After 30 years as a professional travel and landscape photographer I have a good understanding of the natural world, having spent many a day bunkered down and immersed in the natural environment with my Mamiya 6×7 camera (pre-digital) waiting for the right light conditions that I wished to capture. So when I was approached to produce photographs of plants for a book 10 years ago, I jumped to the challenge. It led me down a whole new branch of photographic exploration, plant photography.
As with any aspect of photography, after initial trials you find your feet and style. My approach to plant photography really moved on from the initial commission for the book. I am far more interested in the art of plant photography and what makes one photograph really stand out from the others?
There are certain elements that you need to consider when making a great shot.
- Explore your subject before rushing to photograph it, walk around and see what you are drawn to, see how the light plays on the plant. Think about your composition, how is the subject going to fill the frame? Backlit flowers will always look good if the petals are translucent as it accentuates the colours, giving off a luminescence and showing off the patterns. Don`t be afraid to try out different angles, getting down to the same height as the plant is very effective, or look up to flowers from below them.
- Time of day is an important consideration when taking your photographs. 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 less windy, flowers are hard to photograph when they are moving around too much. Windy days are the toughest to photograph flowers on, unless you choose to use the blur creatively with a slower shutter speed.
- Weather conditions are most important. Most people are surprised to hear that overcast days can be very beneficial for plant photography. This is because clouds act as a perfect light diffuser, creating even lighting and saturation without the worry of harsh highlights or shadows.
- The background of your photograph needs consideration 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 subject stand out, or move in closer to the subject with a tight crop.
- For close ups I would always recommend the use of a tripod, they allow you to frame the plant perfectly and keep the image sharp. Also, look at the flower you are photographing to make sure it is free of blemishes or missing petals.
Experiment and have fun, try out new angles, backgrounds and processes you might be surprised with the results you obtain capturing the beauty of plants.
Flower photography workshops can be found on my website www.stephenstuddphotography.com
Photography holidays & courses to Cambodia, Vietnam, Marrakech the USA and the Gower, can be found on my website www.digitalphotographyholidays.com
‘May the light be with you’