Dreaming of becoming the next Mapplethorpe? Flowers themselves are works of art, however fashioning dramatic images such as his is not as easy as it looks. Using flowers as your subject in studio photography can be fulfilling as well as frustrating creatively. During shooting, flowers can become over exposed, flattened, washed out or just plain wilted from the studio lights. Here’s some more useful tips to get you started.
Rule of Thumb Camera Settings for Flower Photography
The macro mode is one the most useful camera settings when shooting flowers. Macro mode essentially allows your camera to shoot closer with your lens than normal. The camera will automatically choose a rather large aperture for you, shortening the depth of field. When shooting with a wide aperture you should always use a tripod to stabilize your camera and avoid shake. Using a remote for shutter release will also help to minimize the chance of camera shake.
Spraying or misting the flowers with some water will make them look fresh in your final image. Look around for a local floral arranging class to take. It will be worth your time to learn tricks such as threading wire through the flower so that you can bend position leaves and blossoms in an optimal position.
Technical Tips for Photographing Flowers
Your main goal is to convey through the image the immense detail, including color and texture, of the flower. This can be achieved by mastering some technical aspects of studio lighting. The ratio of key and fill lighting along with the direction of your light source(s) will affect the success of your final shot.
Side lighting will emphasize the texture of your subject and will help to create form. (90 degrees from the camera is most common but practice with varying degrees of side angle lights to see what effects you can achieve).
This typically flattens the subject and hides its texture. A good starting lighting set up is to create a soft, or a low, contrast between the background and the flower.
To achieve soft, even light choose a large light source such as a shot box, a strobe or a steady light source such as Savage Universal’s 500 Watt Quartz Light Kit. Generally you want the flower to appear two stops brighter then your background. For that to happen you need to make sure that your subject is a foot or two off the background. Move the light source farther away from the flower to avoid hot spots on your subject.
Backgrounds are also important since you do not want to distract from your subject. For this purpose, simple is best. You’ll also want to choose a background that is going to complement the color of your flower, not compete with it. Varying your lighting set up can also create a color shift on your background, which can be used to build some creative lighting effects. Lighting the background will also help you to add depth to the overall image.
Solid, dark color backgrounds are the most common for shooting flowers in a studio since they allow the flower to be the main focus and eliminate any other type of distraction. Blue backgrounds add a quite and a serene appeal which works great when photographing white or yellow flowers, while black backgrounds add a clean and elegant element to the photograph. Seamless paper such as Savage Universals’ Black or Blue Jean Seamless Paper works great to give the background a beautifully smooth appearance. Both colors are universal and will allow the flower to really pop.
Flower photography shot in a studio can be elegant, delicate, and serene, or it can be dramatic, exciting, and vibrant. It all just depends on your creative choices in lighting and styling. And, it’s one of the more rewarding of all photography subjects. The camera will be able to capture the immense details of the flower not normally noticed with the naked eye.