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Flower Photography in Good Light

The Soft Light of Overcast or Shade Means Great Colors

by Jim Zuckerman

Soft and Beautiful Light
Soft and Beautiful Light
© Jim Zuckerman
All Rights Reserved
My feeling about shooting flowers is that the lighting is best when it's cloudy. Contrary to what most people think, flowers look the most beautiful when they are photographed in diffused lighting. Cloud covers act like a giant studio softbox, and softboxes or white umbrellas that studio photographers use actually are made to simulate an overcast sky.

I shot these wildflowers in the mountains of Switzerland, and they were taken during the middle of the day when the summer sun is the most intense. There were no clouds at all. The picture taken with the direct sunlight isnt terrible, but it's not ideal. Compare it to the one where I leaned over the flowers and used my body to block the light. The contrast is less and the colors are beautiful. In essence, I created open shade with this simple technique. I used the next best thing to a cloud cover and softened the light on the tiny flowers.

Bright and Harsh Sunlight
Bright and Harsh Sunlight
© Jim Zuckerman
All Rights Reserved
In the picture with direct sunlight, notice the very dark shadows throughout the image. They interfere with the graphic designs of the flowers and almost compete for attention. In the shaded image, there are still shadows, but they are softened and they add dimension without being obtrusive.

There was a slight wind blowing, and I had to wait for the air to become still as I shot these. Wind is the enemy of macro photographers.

Editor's Note: This article was adapted from one of Jim Zuckerman's BetterBlogs. For more information on Jim Z and his online courses at, check out his bio. Also, get inspired by reviewing Jim's Basic Gallery and his Pro BetterPholio Web site.

About Author / Instructor / Photographer, Jim Zuckerman
Photography Instructor: Jim ZuckermanFew people are able to spend most of their time pursuing their passion in life. I'm one of them, and I feel blessed to have had a love affair with photography since I began taking pictures.

In 1970, I decided to abort my intended career as a doctor in favor of photography and have never regretted it. Photography has enriched my life more than I can tell you. My career has taken me to over 60 countries, and I've seen and photographed wondrous things.

I specialize in wildlife and nature, international travel, and digital effects. In addition, I also shoot nudes, photo- and electron microscopy, children, and other subjects that stimulate my visual or emotional sensibilities.

For 25 years, I shot a medium format camera, specifically the Mamiya RZ 67, for its superior quality. When I would lecture, Id project the large, glass mounted transparencies, and it was really an incredible experience to see the brilliant color saturation and resolution of these slides. However, I went digital in 2004 because the technology finally equaled or surpassed medium format. I now shoot the Canon 1Ds Mark II digital camera with a variety of lenses.

I am the author of 12 books on photography. My work is sold in 30 countries around the world, and my images have appeared on scores of magazine and book covers, calendars, posters, national ads, trade ads, brochures, and corporate promotions.

For many years I've led photography tours to exotic places. These include Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Burma, Greece, The Czech Republic and Slovakia, Spain, Morocco, and Peru.

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