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Camera FAQ #20: How Do I Photograph Flowers More Dramatically?

When shooting flowers, do you find that your pictures somehow start looking the same after a while? Here are two techniques to use the background creatively to make your photos of flowers pop and stand out. (Reported by: Kazuo Nakahara, Takashi Namiki)


Scene 1: Portray the flowers as silhouettes using decorative lights in the background

EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 80mm/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/160 sec., EV±0)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Tungsten Light
I found some flowers near golden decorative lights that were shining brightly. It was difficult to capture the flowers brightly in such dark conditions, so I went the unconventional route and took an underexposed shot to capture the flowers as silhouettes.


Tip 1: Focus accurately on the dark flowers to depict them sharply

I wanted to depict the sharp outlines of the flower silhouettes amidst the bokeh circles of the lights in the background. However, my camera could not focus well on the flowers when using AF. Therefore, after roughly focusing in AF, I finely adjusted the focus with full-time manual focusing. Do take note that if the focus point is not aligned with the silhouette, the outline of the silhouettes will be blurred, which weakens their impact.

When the focus is past the silhouettes
EOS 5D Mark III/ EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM/ FL: 105mm/ Manual exposure (f/4, 1/160 sec., EV±0)/ ISO 1600/ WB: Tungsten Light


Tip 2: Use an aperture setting that allows you to create large bokeh circles

I wanted to accentuate the contrast between the illumination in the background and the flowers to depict the silhouettes of the flowers. Hence, I aimed to form bokeh circles with the entire illumination to create an overall bright background for the flowers. For that reason I set the lens to maximum aperture to create the largest possible bokeh circles.


Scene 2: Using diagonal composition to capture two flowers

EOS 6D/ EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM/ FL: 100mm/ Aperture-priority AE (f/2.8, 1/320 sec., EV+1.0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight
I captured the only two flowers that were in bloom, using a diagonal composition (Learn more about it in this article about Simple But Essential Compositions). Here, I adjusted the angle so as to achieve a line of sight that extends from the subject toward the blurred out flower in the background.


Tip 1: Shoot in maximum aperture to achieve balance between the flower that is the secondary subject and the bokeh effect in the background

I could have narrowed the aperture a little to bring out the form of the flower a little more. However, because the background was close to the subject in this scene, it would have made the background stand out a little too much, so I used the maximum aperture of f/2.8.


Tip 2: Create space for contrast between the two flowers

To create a diagonal composition, it is important to arrange the main subject so that it appears smaller in the frame. If the main subject is too large, there will not be enough space to place the other flower in the frame, which might make it difficult to create any contrast.


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Digital Camera Magazine

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
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Kazuo Nakahara

Kazuo Nakahara

Born in Hokkaido in 1982, Nakahara turned to photography after working at a chemical manufacturing company. He majored in photography at the Vantan Design Institute and is a lecturer for photography workshops and seminars, in addition to working in commercial photography. He is also a representative of the photography information website studio9.

Takashi Namiki

Takashi Namiki

Born in Tokyo in 1971. After attending the Tokyo School of Photography (current name: Tokyo Visual Arts), he became a freelancer. He currently publishes works for various magazines. He continues to produce mainly works of flowers as a motif. Lecturer at EOS Gakuen School.