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  • Writer's pictureJames Harrison

Blooming Blooms: photographing flowers.

I photograph flowers a lot, as do many photographers. Flowers are undeniably beautiful, and therefore provide good subject matter for photography, but there is a problem.

The problem lies in creating sufficient interest. People have seen thousands of flowers, as well as thousands of photos of flowers, so why should they look at another one? This is, in fact, a general problem with all photography, but it is especially challenging with popular subjects, such as flowers. Any subject can become a cliché if repeated too often.

My solution to the problem is to attempt to do one or more of four things with any particular floral subject:

1. Isolate: Select a single bloom or small group of blooms so that interest is focussed and not dispersed. (Some large spectacular displays are good subjects, but those move in the direction of landscape photography.) Isolation usually means getting in close, and this has the added advantage of revealing detail which is usually missed when viewing flowers at a normal distance. Extreme close-ups can also be revealing and impactful, provided that they are sharp. Isolation also involves the important topic of background blur, or “bokeh” – a subject for a future blog post.

The following is a photo that I hoped would work, but it doesn't, because there is not enough isolation and no clear focal point in the image.

2. Compose: As in all photography, composition is three quarters of the challenge. Composing involves the angle of the shot and the framing. Effective composition is relaxing to look at and pleasing to the eye. In photography that aims to be art, composition can never be ignored, no matter how fascinating the subject matter. An effective composition transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. Composition allows one to conquer the cliché. (I will blog on composition soon.)

The following is a photo where I think I got the composition, and the isolation, right.

3. Illuminate: As any photographer knows, lighting is critically important, and perhaps even more so in flower photography. I have a personal bias against using flash, so my shots are almost always naturally lit. However, light values can always be changed in “post” (processing of a shot after it is taken), especially when the original is a RAW file. I never rely solely on the camera for a finished product, but I am aware that this is largely a matter of personal preference.

This pic is nicely illuminated. Some may consider it much too "busy", but I like that the background light and shade contribute to the midday feel of the image. It wasn't particularly planned, but it worked out well.

4. Choose colour or bnw: Black and white for flower photography may seem odd, but it can be highly effective if one want to emphasize form and texture over colour. (Another topic for a future blog post.) In other shots, colour is the point of interest, and bnw is out of the question. In such cases, careful consideration must be given to exposure, clarity vibrance and saturation without losing the feel of naturalness.

The following pic I feel works well in black and white. (It works well in colour too!) Note how clearly the shapes come across, and how well the different textures contrast.

See the album on flowers for more images.

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William Harrison
William Harrison
Aug 09, 2021

I like the title "anthroposcenery" and the conundrum it presents when we can create beautiful imagery out of making a visual [and ecological] impact on the landscape!

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