Gardens, hedgerows and meadows are bursting with glorious blooms and the sight of them lifts my spirits. The pollen laden, brightly coloured flowers attract the bees and the butterflies and suddenly it really feels like Summer, especially in the glorious sunny weather we’re experiencing. Local gardens and nurseries have been busy with shoppers feeling confident enough to buy bedding plants, with the risk of night frosts probably around nil now. (I’m still a bit confused as to why my local branch of Lidl has a pile of snow chains on display -I know British weather is famously changeable but even so!).
The other people flocking to gardens are visitors with their cameras, compelled to capture the sudden splurge of summer colour. I’m no different and was lucky enough to schedule a meeting with a wedding client at a local cottage garden (Bluebell Cottage Gardens, Dutton, Cheshire) at the weekend and managed to fit in an hour of blissful flower photography. I wandered around the garden, taking my time and picking out particular flowers and vistas to photograph.
I was pretty pleased with the results, especially with the shots of the stunning allium. They cry out to be photographed with a shallow depth of field, reducing the ones in the background to blurred pink pompoms. I had been sceptical of whether I would get any really good shots as it was mid-day, hardly a cloud in the sky and the light was very harsh. Ideally you shouldn’t photograph flowers on bright, sunny days, especially close up shots. This is because you get really strong contrasts between of sun and shade that can spoil the shot. Colours are more intense and saturated in overcast conditions. But what do you do if you can’t return on a less sunny day?
Here are my top tips on how to photograph flowers, even in the bright mid-day sun.
- Try to find flowers that are in the shade – of a wall, a tree, a bush. Consider using your body to provide shade. I found one allium flower that was under a tree with blue forget-me-not underneath it and stretching into the distance.
- Take lots of shots from different angles, checking what it in the background of the shot and if there’s a distracting flash of colour from another flower, change your angle slightly. Don’t just shoot from above, but get down level with the flower, or even underneath if it’s tall. Be prepared to get damp knees!
- Fill the frame with your subject. If you’re doing a close up, make sure it is close up, not a flower lost in a mass of others. This is a very common mistake.
- Avoid close ups on windy days – it’s very tricky to do close ups as the flower will blow in and out of focus.
- Take shots from different distances – as close up as your lens will let you and slightly further out. But don’t include too many distracting elements. Think about what the subject of your photo is and make sure that’s what grabs the attention. If you have a lens that zooms quite a lot, get a little distance away and zoom in – this will blur the background.
- Try putting the camera dial onto Av / A (aperture) and select a low f/number like f/3.2. If you are using a lower number, be careful where you are focusing and try a few different shots, focusing on different parts of the flower head.
- If there are no flowers in the shade, then pick the side that is in full sunshine (the sun will be behind you). Extreme closeups don’t work as well,as they emphasise the contrasts, so look for slightly wider shots. The shots of lots of allium in the collage were taken in full sunshine, as you can see from shadows on the stems.
- Don’t always place your subject in the centre. Use the Rule Of Thirds to place the flower off to one side and get a more interesting composition.
Here are some pictures I took of other flowers around the garden and a few views too. If you are a relative beginner with a SLR or bridge camera and would like to learn how to take better photographs of flowers, take a look at the courses for beginners I am running at Bluebell Cottage Gardens in 2014. It’s a beautiful day out in the heart of the Cheshire countryside, with a lunch and a garden tour included.
Watch out for my next blog about visiting the Chelsea Flower Show later this week.
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