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Photographing flowers

Posted by Teresa Hanafin  September 8, 2008 12:38 PM

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Lily by Pat Greenhouse
Adjusting the f/stop renders some elements of your photo slightly out of focus,
as Boston Globe Staff Photographer Pat Greenhouse demonstrates in this photo of a lily.

By Pat Greenhouse
Globe Staff Photographer

Keep some of the following points in mind when photographing flowers:

Light. Choose the time of day for the best light. Mid-day with contrasting light will probably make for ugly pictures. Shoot in early or late soft light, or pick an overcast day. If you do have strong sun, try backlighting some of the flowers to reveal patterns and texture. Also try for some sun and some shade to give depth to your photos.

The lens. Pick your lens for the type of effect that you want. Use a wide-angle or mid-range lens if you want to capture the whole garden. For an individual study, use a telephoto lens or, preferably, a macro lens. I use a 100mm macro. You can show the whole flower, or just a petal, or just the stamen and pistil, or even the little creatures that visit the flower.

Aperture. Use your aperture (f/stop) to control depth of field. A narrow depth of field (low f/stop such as f/2.8 or f/4) will blur the foreground and background of your main subject. It would be boring if everything was always in focus.

Movement. Pay attention to the wind. You can use it to your advantage, but it also can mess up your shot when you're trying to get an extreme close-up. If you don't use a tripod, also keep in mind your own body movement when using a macro lens.

Background. Make sure the background does not cause a distraction. A plain wooden fence might be a nice backdrop, while a chain-link fence might not. Look for the greenery of other plants and grasses to provide contrast for your flower. Also check that you don't have odd mergers with background objects.

Of course, if you cut the flowers and take them inside, you'll have more control over all the elements of your pictures.

More Pat Greenhouse photos

Want to keep improving, or have some tips to share? Check out all of our tipsheets or submit your own.

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