Tony’s Tips For Flower Photography


©2011Tony D. Locke, MM     All images ©2011Tony D. Locke

There are a large assortment of subjects to shoot as you explore this fun little hobby we call Photography. Some people specialize in only certain areas, such as weddings, food or landscapes while others like to explore a wider expanse of ideas. I personally, fall into the landscape, abstract, macro and indescribable oddities category. I do not like portraits or weddings, while I’ve found that many of those that do like it, hate landscapes. But there’s one area that draws all types of photographers, at least for a short break from their normal work, and that is flowers, or in my case, wildflowers while mountain climbing. There are many things that wildflowers can offer a photographer to explore: Dramatic colors, interesting shapes & groupings, many with graceful curves, all with amazing ranges of hues and contrast. It’s no wonder photographs are drawn to wildflowers. But, don’t let your guard down, like all other areas of photography, there are many simple rules to keep in mind as you create your wildflower images. As you build your knowledge and skill, you’ll have a better idea of how to break these rules too. Today, were going to look at several ways you too can create great wildflower images.

#1 COMPOSITION

Composition is arguably the most important skill to learn in photography. All those other camera techniques you’ll learn come into play too, but if you’ve got a terrible composition, plain and simple – No ones going to be interested in your image.

A great Composition takes into account, how the various objects in an image are arranged with respect to each other. Now, there are numerous ways to compose your image, with just as many rules written on this subject – Not only for photographers, but for all artists, from painters to sculptors. Again, once you know the rules, then you can learn how to break them.

One of the most popular “rules” is called the “Rule of Thirds”. This Rule of Thirds simply states that an image should be divided into thirds both vertically and horizontally. Your “Center of Interest” (COI) should be placed either at one of the intersections of the dividing lines or on one of the lines themselves. Simply imagine a Tic-Tac-Toe screen overlaid in your viewfinder while working on a scene (some cameras actually have this feature available for use on the monitor).

The biggest advantage of the Rule of Thirds is how it helps make an image more dynamic and balanced; More pleasing to the eye, so to speak. A lot of crazy researchers, locked in rooms with test subjects have shown that people’s eyes tend to gravitate to the areas of an image located at these intersections where the dividing lines of the Rule of Thirds meet.

Now, the complete opposite – And a big rule breaker No-No is; Placing the COI right smack dead center in the scene! This will make the image have a very static, uncomfortable feeling. Placing the COI at most other locations tends to make the scene appear unbalanced. Now, if that’s the affect that you’re after, go ahead and center that image.

When a horizon is part of your image, make sure it’s either on the top third line if the foreground is more important than the sky, or on the bottom third line if the sky is more dramatic than the foreground. Very rarely can you get away with a centered horizon. Also, make sure your horizon is level!

#2 CENTER OF INTEREST

A great photo, no matter what the subject, needs a strong center of interest (COI). This is that subject in an image, which grabs the attention of the viewer. For example, the COI might be the wildflower or a barn. Or, maybe a pretty little bug, smiling on one of the pedals. Or, a brightly colored yellow wildflower among a field of Red flowers. Just remember, the COI serves to grab that viewer’s attention, and either hold it, or give a starting point to explore the rest of the image as in the yellow daffodils and the barn below. If your COI doesn’t quickly grab your viewer attention, they will quickly loses interest and move on to someone else’s photo.

#3 SUBTRACTION

Painters and photographers are two completely different types of artists. It is said that a painter keeps adding to their painting until it is complete. While a photographer keeps subtracting items from a scene until it is complete and ready for capture. Once you’ve chosen a subject and properly lined it up in your composition, anything else within the scene should help strengthen the image – Or, it should be removed. Another strong technique is to have other elements in a scene direct the viewer’s attention to the main subject. Simple; Remove everything in the scene that does not help the main subject. In this yellow daffodil and barn scene, there was a mud bog just to the left, which if left in the scene would have been a distraction.

A very important practice to get into is to search around the edges of your viewfinder, if there is a branch or rock at the edge of the viewfinder that does not help your image in any way, either the camera should be recomposed or remove that stick or rock from the image. This so important – Anything in the image that does not support the main subject will distract the viewer, or even worse, may lead the viewer’s eye out of the image entirely. This is one of those things that will come back and haunt you after the shot many times. Many viewfinders on all but the Pro model cameras, only show maybe 80% of the image that your sensor will capture. It never fails, there will be a branch, a car, fire hydrant or a person that you didn’t notice while you were concentrating on your composition, right at the edge of the frame. Learn to look around before you pull the trigger.

#4 MOVE IN CLOSER THAN NORMAL~OR GET UNDERNEATH THE FLOWER AND SHOOT UP!

Give your viewer a different point of view than they’re normally used too. Moving in close makes the subject appear larger and more dominant, while giving the viewer’s eye some interesting additional details to explore, which they may not have ever seen before. Also, when you’ve moved in so close, by default you’ve hopefully reinforced Tip #3, by subtracting any unnecessary objects or distractions along the edges of the frame. Looking up into the bottom of flowers creates another interesting view one doesn’t normally see. If you’ve got lucky with blue skies and puffy clouds above, that’s a bonus. So get down, look up.

#5 LEADING LINES

Not only is this is a very powerful technique, it’s also another compositional rule to follow. When composing your image, providing some type of leading lines, which point toward the COI, adds two benefits: They’ll forcefully direct the viewer’s eye to the main subject in the image, while emphasizing a graceful flow thru the scene. Leading lines can be formed by the edges of the road, rows of flowers, fences and walls, the curving line of a beach or cliff or maybe even a wildflower’s pedals.

#6 CONTRASTING COLORS

Those crazy researchers and test subjects also found while locked in those rooms, that our attention is strongly drawn to color contrast. They call it some type of psychological phenomenon, which is built into our sensory/perceptual systems. I don’t know, sounds like just a bunch of big researcher terms. Either way, we all respond to color contrast, especially opposite colors – Think a bright yellow flower against a bright blue sky!  Or, as in this image the red flowered lower section and blue sky on top. Notice the placement of the tree on a “Rule of Thirds” intersection too.

As an artist, painter or photographer, you can use this “psychological phenomenon” by searching for flowers with high color contrast. Even better, choose flowers with two or three contrasting colors to make a more interesting photo.

#7.8 PERFECT CONDITION

One last rule, which applies to most subjects you’ll photograph, but to flowers more than anything else. In order to create great images, you must start with pristine subjects. When you’re crawling around, in a field of tulips or wildflowers, you’ve got lots of flowers to chose –  However, for your image, not just any flower will do. You must find that one flower or even harder, that group of flowers, which are in pristine condition.

If the flower right in front of you is not perfectly fresh, maybe it has a few marks, or worse yet, a few bugs have enjoyed having a snack on it – It should not be used. Move on to another one, or change your angle to hide its flaws.

With this set of Tony’s Tips, you’ll have a much better foundation as you continue to study this great hobby. I’ve also created an growing resource of free articles to help you develop your photography skills.

Visit Tony’s Flickr site at http://www.flickr.com/photos/masterofmadness/

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Visit Tony’s Photoshop & Lightroom Tips site at http://tonysphotoshoptips.wordpress.com/

Visit Alternative Focus Workshops’s site at: http://alternativefocus.blogspot.com/ sign up for our newsletter to be kept informed of upcoming Workshops and events.

Or, Facebook him at Tony Locke, Tony Locke Photography or That Photo Shoppe.

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About masterofmadness

Semi-pro photographer & musician. Co-own a photo gallery with a digital photo-lab in a small tourist town, on an island in the Pacific NW of USA. I also teach and ongoing series of workshops in photography, Photoshop and Apple computers. I shoot mostly landscapes, in the mountains - Giving me a great excuse to go climb them. I also do a lot of fine art, macros and abstracts.
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