How To Photograph Spring Flowers
Spring is in the air, folks, which means one very fun photo-thing... spring flowers. Every photographer uses flowers as a go-to subject at one point or another in the early days of their photographic journey. It's hard not to; blooms are readily available and easy to photograph, not to mention, beautiful and vibrant, which makes them naturally photogenic.
It isn't just beginner photographers that enjoy taking photos of flowers, however. During the spring season when wildflowers come out to play, hobbyists and experienced photographers flock to meadows, woods, and deserts to capture nature's underrated little miracles.
Are you making plans to join them this year? Before you go, here are a few tricks to consider to make the most of your trip and bring back a few stunning shots to last you until next spring.
While flowers are easy subjects to photograph, you still have to do more than pointing at one and pressing that shutter. As with any type of photography, lighting--more precisely, good lighting--is necessary. And with flowers, overcast is king with its soft, even lighting. A sunny day will cast shadows and harsh highlights on your delicate subjects, and make them look less pleasing. Shooting indoors next to a window works too if you want to practice on store-bought blooms.
If those two aren't plausible for some reason, go for backlighting, which not only makes daffodils and poppies look like they are effervescing, but also allows you to get creative with angles and perspective.
Get Up Close and Personal
Taking wide-angle shots of flower fields and meadows will definitely get you a lot of likes on Flickr, but that isn't the only way to capture blooms. Pack your telephoto zoom lens, macro lens, close-up filters, and extension tubes, if you've got them to get up close and personal with your vibrant subjects. These are great for isolating a particularly beautiful flower, capturing its delicate details, and catching a butterfly, a bee, or a hummingbird in action.
Speaking of isolating your subjects, that's actually a great way of removing clutter and minimizing your scenes. By using a telephoto lens or a close-up filter, you're getting rid of all the chaos and filling your frame with what matters most--the flower. By using a macro lens, you can really home in on that flower's details--its petals, stigma, or filaments.
Minimize even more by using the widest apertures (F/1.4 to F/5.6) and using a shallow depth of field. Doing so gives you creamy, out-of-focus backgrounds, which make your subject stand out even more.
This might sound easy in theory, but it's actually not that simple to accomplish. Of course, you can change perspective in any way you want, experimenting with different angles and points of views. However, finding a perspective that best captures the flowers and makes for interesting images is much trickier, and takes a lot of practice and experience. Try going down to the flowers' level for a low perspective, or capturing them from underneath to switch things up.
Before you scoff at the idea, hear us out. Many photographers who have honed their flower photography skills actually use "hacks" or props to make their subjects look even more appealing. For example, many use spray bottles to spray water on the flowers to mimic that fresh early morning dew while others utilize reflectors to bounce light onto the flowers to make their color/s pop. For a more vibrant composition, try strategically placing more flowers, particularly of different colors, behind or in front of your subject.
Use the Foreground
The basic rules of photography don't go out the window just because you're photographing something very simple. Pay attention to your background and foreground, alongside your subject. For foregrounds, simply use what you have handy--other flowers, a stream, your dog, a person. Or use the flowers themselves. They make for interesting foregrounds, especially when you're in a city setting as they provide a terrific soft contrast against those typically cold urban scenes.
Adding a human element to your frame is almost always a good idea because not only does it add a bit of storytelling, but it also instantly makes it more relatable to your audience. A woman sitting in the middle of a flower field is always a good one, as is a florist carrying a bouquet of freshly picked tulips, a girl in a flowing dress walking down a lane lined with cherry blossoms, or a pair of hands cradling a chrysanthemum.
Colors, Colors, Colors
You can never have enough color. Just because you're in a sea of bluebells or poppies, doesn't mean you can only rely on them to brighten up your photos. Consult the color wheel to determine your flowers' complimentary colors. Based on that, determine the best colors to add to the mix. This way, you have a general idea of what colors work best when you're trying to choose the flowers to use as your creamy background or deciding on what dress your model should wear for the shoot.
You're dealing with nature and, with nature, nothing is ever predictable. The weather can change at any minute. Dark clouds can come in from nowhere. And you might have to contend with windy conditions from time to time. And when you're going to a popular place--like one of California's Superbloom spots or Texas' bluebonnet meadows--you'll also have to contend with crowds of people, all trying to do the same thing you're doing.
Patience is key, as well as time and a bit of exploring to find the perfect spot for what you'd like to do.
Don't Trample the Spring Flowers
If you're one of the thousands of people flocking to see the wildflowers, be kind to nature. These meadows suffer some level of abuse every year from inconsiderate people trying to get that shot that will get them the most likes on Instagram and Facebook, and it typically results in bald spots that sadly take years to recover.
Stick to designated areas and trails, and work with different angles to make it look like you're right in the middle of it (if taking portraits). If you're not sure which areas are ok to go into, consult a ranger or someone from park services. Avoid trampling on beds of flowers, even when you're in the middle of the wilderness and no one's watching.