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Flower Photography

One of the characteristics that makes an image strong is when it presents a scene in a way that we don’t normally get to see it. As you walk through life each day, you see EVERYTHING, for the most part, at eye level. As beautiful as a Tulip may be, if you photograph it from your normal standing position, it will look like every other Tulip you have seen over the years. Beautiful?… yes, Unique or interesting?… probably not so much.

Look to present Tulips in a way they are not usually seen. When was the last time you got down on your belly on a nice day and gazed upward at the flowers? Maybe never, right? By gaining a different perspective than what you are used to seeing, the image now possesses the unique and interesting factor that makes it visually appealing.

If you happen upon a scene that contains a field of Tulips as far as the eye can see, or one where there’s a glorious mountain or sunset as the backdrop, well then you’re pretty much golden to start shooting away. However, for the other 99% of the time, you will be faced with less than glorious surroundings. This is when it is important to manage the scene. Even the most dazzling flowers will not be as appealing when you see parked cars, campers, stores, etc. behind them. Unless the background elements support your photograph, they should not be included.

There are several ways in which you can remove distractions from your background. One is by simply walking around your scene and finding a vantage point in which the less than desirable background elements are not visible. An example of this might be to shoot upward from a very low vantage point. By using the sky as the backdrop, you have avoided any existing distractions that may have been there. In addition to getting down low, you can attempt to photograph the flowers close up with a tight crop. Any items that may have been behind our floral subjects are nowhere to be seen and the focus of the image is on only the Tulips.

Depth of Field (or DOF), is basically the distance between the nearest and farthest elements in a photograph that appear sufficiently sharp in focus. When an image has a large depth of field, most elements in the scene from front to back will be in sharp focus. If an image has a shallow depth of field, the subject of the photograph will be sharp, while elements in front or behind it will be out of focus.

Controlling DOF can be a very powerful tool in creating strong images. Let’s go back to the previous tip, regarding backgrounds, for example. In addition to the strategies we discussed for removing distracting background elements, you could also use depth of field to your advantage. By throwing a background element out of focus, you will draw less attention to it.

Manipulating the depth of field can really assist in producing a strong and dynamic image. For example, with an out of focus foreground and background, you can keep the attention on a single Tulip just by keeping it sharply focused.

Controlling the depth of field is a technique that deserves its own article. In short, however, there are a few ways of achieving it. One of the most common ways is to use a large aperture (lower f-stop number) for shallow depth of field and a small aperture (higher f-stop number) for greater depth of field. This means you will have to get yourself out of the automatic setting and choose either manual mode or Aperture Priority mode on your camera.