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Flower Photography – Composition and Camera Features

This article will cover how "flowers" are shot by professional photographers and some unique techniques using the EOS 5D Mark III. (Reported by: Tatsuya Tanaka)

EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM/ Aperture-priority AE (1/125 sec., f/4.5, -0.3EV)/ ISO 100/ WB: Daylight/ Multiple exposure: [Additive]

The multiple-exposure feature is useful for the unique expression of images. In this shot with several flowers superimposed, I selected [Additive] to merge four exposures.

Three ways to capture impressive flower shots

Composition: Change your picture composition according to the shape of the flower

When taking pictures of flower, composition is very important. Composing a vertically-oriented shot of a flower with a long stem is not recommended as the blossom would appear at the upper end of the image. In this case, you can balance the composition by accentuating the surrounding stems or background, or overlapping the foreground and background.

Lighting: Creating the mood and impact of your image

Light is important in all types of photography and different type of lighting can affect the mood and impact of your shots. On a sunny day, there is a high tendency for shadows to be cast on flowers, creating a stiff expression with a strong contrast. To overcome this problem, make effective use of backlight to capture the outline of the blossom, or light that penetrates the petals to create a unique expression. If you want to produce a soft gradation or reproduce the colours of the flower naturally, a cloudy day would be ideal as light would fall evenly on the entire flower. Soft light can also be obtained when you are shooting in an indoor location on a sunny day or in a greenhouse. Alternatively, you can control the light using a small reflector or a parasol.

Settings: Obtain your desired image with Picture Style

One of the basic approach in flower photography is to adjust exposure compensation in the Aperture-priority AE mode. The setting that is changed most frequently during the shoot is Picture Style. I would apply the [Landscape], [Standard], or [Faithful] effect according to the colour of the flower. For flowers with a dark tone, I would make use of [Faithful] as applying [Landscape] would likely to cause the colour of the subject to appear saturated. In addition, the [Sharpness] option of the [Faithful] Picture Style is set to [0] by default, but I have adjusted it to [+3], the same level as that for the [Standard] effect.

EOS 5D Mark III Recommended Feature

Highlight Alert

There is strong contrast when you are photographing flowers on a sunny day. This causes a sharp difference in the brightness between the highlights and shadows, and the highlights are likely to appear blown out if exposure compensation is not performed. The Highlight alert feature comes in handy as a guide to help you perform exposure compensation accurately.

Recommended Lens

EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

The depictive performance of this L-type lens is very powerful. In addition to being able to produce soft bokeh effect with a clear focus when the aperture is fully open, it also boasts a high resolving power when the aperture is stopped down.

EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM/ Aperture-priority AE (1/10 sec., f/14)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto/ HDR: [Natural]

This photo of a rose was taken inside a greenhouse. There is a sharp difference in bright- ness between the highlights on the petals and leaves under the shade. The background would appear blown out if I had adjusted the exposure based on the flower. Here, I made use of the HDR feature to resolve the problem.

EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM/ Aperture-priority AE (1/30 sec., f/9, -1EV)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

Shot on a breezy day, this flower was hard to focus on as it was swaying. I managed to capture it after achieving instant focusing with the Single-point Spot AF.

Tatsuya Tanaka

Born in 1956, Tanaka is one of the rare photographers who produce works across a wide variety of genres from an original perspective. These genres range from objects in our daily lives, such as insects and flowers, to landscapes, skyscapes, and celestial bodies. Besides photography, Tanaka has also developed his own approach in post processes including retouch and printing.