6 Steps to Amazing Macro Flower Photography

Photographing flowers can be a very fun and easy way to get amazing photos. Flowers are everywhere, beautiful and very willing photography subjects. It doesn’t take a lot to make flowers look good, but I’ve gathered a few ideas to get you started.

Here are 6 tips for getting great macro flower photography!

Macro Flower Photography Example

Photo via Shutterstock/CHAINFOTO24

Equipment

Typically, a basic DSLR and accompanying kit lens will do the trick. The main limiting factor will be the minimum focusing distance on the lens. If you can get in close (within a few inches) and retain focus, you have basically what you need. From there, a macro lens or telephoto lens will give you more options. The macro lens allows you to focus very close and magnify the image to at least the same size as your sensor and the telephoto allows you to zoom in close without being physically close to the flower. Once you have a good camera and lens selection, a tripod and light modifiers will help you take your photos to the next level.

Depth of field

When using a macro lens or telephoto lens, you will get a very thin depth of field at wide apertures. Sometimes, this can be just what you need to separate your subject from the background. A shallow depth of field helps you to focus on just the one flower in a bunch, or just the one part of a flower you want to capture and the rest is blurry. If you want to show more of the scene, you may need to close down your aperture to widen the depth of field.

Settings

Remember, when using a macro lens or telephoto lens, you will need a faster shutter speed if you are hand holding your camera. For a telephoto, I recommend 1/200 of a second for 200mm, 1/400 sec for 400mm and so on. For macros, the speed depends on the magnification of the lens. I think it is safe to shoot double what you ordinarily would, so 1/200 for 100mm. If you have a tripod and your subject is not moving in the wind you can slow that shutter speed way down. If you do not have a tripod, consider a wider aperture or bumping up your ISO setting.

Light

Like most other areas of photography, direct, flat, harsh light is not ideal for flower photography. Choose to photograph early in the morning or late in the afternoon, when the light is low and coming from an interesting angle. Or choose to photograph on an overcast day when the light is diffused. If the light is just not working for you, you can use a reflector to bounce sunlight in at an angle or a diffuser to make harsh sunlight look soft and contoured.

Focus

It is important to nail your focus with macro flower photography. A sharp, crisp image separates pros from amateurs. Use your different autofocus points when you can. When autofocus isn’t working for you, switch to manual and try to get it yourself. Either way, take many shots just in case the first one isn’t quite tack sharp. Since the depth of field issues with macro lenses and wide apertures don’t always allow us to get the whole flower in focus, some macro photographers use focus stacking in postproduction. Focus stacking just means taking several photo of the same subject, while focusing on different parts. You can then stack the images in photoshop and combine the sharp parts of each image. There is also software that will automate this process for you, like Helicon Focus.

Composition

With a subject that is planted firmly in the ground, you can take your time working on the perfect composition. Try photographing the entire flower and then try photographing just a part. Switch your angle of view so that other flowers are in the background, then so the ground is in the background, then get low so the sky is in the background. If you can’t get a suitable background for your macro flower photography, use a piece of colored paper.

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