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Photography Question 
Nevia Cashwell
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Photographing Larger Groups of Small Flowers


Looking for some advice and tips. I do pretty well photographing single flowers or even smaller groups of flowers, but when I try to capture a larger group of flowers, particularly when they are small and all of the same predominant color, the photos just seem to fall short for me. I just cannot seem to capture what it is I am trying to capture, the large splash of color while also retaining some detail in individual flowers. I have tried different depths of field and still just cannot seem to get what I want.


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4/17/2009 10:38:20 AM

 
Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/17/2003
cammphoto.com
  The welcomed warmth of spring and shooting flowers seem to go hand in hand. We all strive to try something a little different each flower season ... a unique angle of perspective, creative use of light and background. Sometimes it can hard to come up with something new.
What about your photos do you feel "falls short"? If it's compositionally, try to include the group of flowers as part of a larger landscape. Use a wide-angle lens and a small aperture. Get low to the ground and focus on the nearest flower in the bunch. Include the background landscape and part of the sky if you can. The cluster of colorful flowers will become the primary point of interest and the rest of the landscape will add balance to the scene.
If your interests lie in capturing only the flowers, try shooting them from a higher angle of perspective ... eliminating the rest of the background. A small aperture setting will insure apparent focus throughout the group.
Another neat trick you can try on a calm day is to set the camera on a tripod, set the ISO on your camera to its lowest setting and select a small aperture and slow shutter speed (around 1/4 second). Focus on the front group of flowers, then set the timer and press the shutter. Before the timer runs out, create a "breeze" by waving a piece of flat cardboard back and forth (out of frame, of course) over the flowers toward the back of the frame. When done properly, the blooms in front are tack-sharp and will stand out against a blurred colorful background.
Also, cloudy days offer the best conditions for photographing flowers. The colors are more saturated and the slow shutter speeds I suggested earlier are easy to achieve. Harsh sunlight tends to burn out highlights and create deep shadows.


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4/19/2009 6:20:27 PM

 
Usman M. Bajwa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/11/2006
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  Bob, your last suggestion sounds wonderful. Can't wait for the weekend to try to do just that!


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4/19/2009 10:32:47 PM

 
Nevia Cashwell
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  Thanks Bob for some great ideas. I think you may have touched on my problem when you talked about using the background landscape as balance. I guess sometimes filling the shot with the major subject is not the best idea.


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4/20/2009 6:36:43 AM

 
Dale M. Garvey   Bob's suggestions are great. You can also use the camera on a tripod and focus at different points (foreground, middle ground etc)taking care not to move the camera. You can then overlay the separate photos in layers in Photoshop and selectively erase the out of focus areas. Backlighting is always beautiful.

Look through Better Photos or Flicker to find what you like and try to dupe the effect.


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4/23/2009 6:49:36 AM

 
Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/31/2005
  Don't worry so much about the whole field being in sharp focus. If your foreground flowers are sharp with the rest falling in behind covering the entire canvas, I bet you'll be pleased. You still want a single point of focus for the viewer. You want to make sure it's not cluttered. You still need leading lines or a point of focus. Don't forget your composition rules. It's the "you can't see forest through the trees" analogy.


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4/23/2009 7:40:05 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hey Nevia ! The solution to your problem lies in how you control the light and what you use to do that. When I shoot vegetables or flowers, either in studio or on location, I start by putting up a set of handmade fill panels made of fome core, both white and black, and diffusion panels made of either Domke diffusion silks or even drafting film stapled to wooden frames. Sheets are a bit too dense. Place the panels depending on where the sun is.

The panels accomplish three things.
First, they control the light in accordance with how they're placed and where. Second, they block the breezes that contribute to blurred images; third, they help you regulate detail in the shadows with a bit of fill. Basically you're building a box around your subject. You can also supplement sunlight by adding a bit of flash. If you need less light on a given area, add an additional SMALLER piece of diffusion material on the existing panel, like spots.

Lastly, to shoot, you can punch a hole through one of your panels, place them on either side of your lens, or shoot through an opening between panels. Remember that using slower shutter speeds, even down to 1 second if necessary, will allow you to work at smaller f-stops, like f-11, but yes you should use a tripod and cable release and make sure your subject has adequate prevention to wind/breeze exposure.
Take it light ;>)
Mark


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4/26/2009 11:44:39 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  BTW Nevia, if you look at my website, you'll see a few shots of flowers and vegetables done in the manner I mentioned. You have to take your time to do this right and anticipate where your primary light source (like sunlight) will be about the time you're ready to shoot. Feel free to drop me an e-mail if you have more specific questions about issues like how to get a light meter reading off your flowers when you shoot, etc.
M.
dr


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4/26/2009 12:08:49 PM

 
Nevia Cashwell
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  thanks Mark. Gonna try this when I have a chance. also gonnat take a look at your website.


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4/26/2009 2:06:22 PM

 
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