Monday, August 24, 2009

Instructor's Tip: Flower Close Ups

I hope you enjoy this week's "Instructor's Tip" by one of my favorite instructors, award winning nature photographer Russ Burden. To learn more about how Russ captured the above image, join him on one of his photo tours. Visit Russ Burden Photography to get more information.

Flower Close Ups
Flower photography is very diverse. Whether it’s a sprawling field of orange poppies, a pattern in a field of tulips, a juxtaposition of a new bud with a freshly opened blossom, or a close up of stamens, each presents a series of challenges. The key challenge is to come up with something both technically and aesthetically fresh. Key factors that come into play enabling you to meet this challenge are proper use of depth of field, lighting, and composition. In this tip, I will zero in on how to deal with light when shooting flower close ups as each aspect is unique and reserved for its own write up.

Light: The biggest benefit of shooting flower close ups is a great image can be made any time of the day. Because you’ll be working with a small subject, you have the luxury of being able to shoot at noon and augment the light with flash, a diffuser, or reflector. The use of each of these tools will net a different effect of the same flower.

Diffuser: Bright overcast conditions are great for flower photography. The light is soft so detail is retained on the whites of the petals in addition to the shadows of the background. Even in bright overhead mid day sun, this quality can be mimicked using a diffuser. Commercial ones that are collapsible are portable and convenient to use and come in different sizes. They cleverly fold into a disc and are very light.

Reflector: Reflectors are used to bounce bright light back onto your subject to fill in the shadow areas. This softens the contrast as light is added to the dark portions of the flower. Doing so brings the highlights under control as the contrast range is lessened. Interesting effects can be had by combining a reflector and diffuser.

Flash: Flash can be used as a main or fill light. If your intent is to use it as the primary light source, you’ll need a fairly powerful one to provide enough power to override the sun. But I find a flash to be more useful as a source of fill to soften the contrast of mid day sun. Most good flashes allow you to control the amount of fill. This allows you to create varying contrast effects from just a hint of fill to completely canceling out the shadows.

Take a class with Russ or a fellow Digital Photo Academy instructor in your area, check out the Digital Photo Academy. I took Russ' intermediate and advanced courses last year, and he continues to be a strong source of knowledge and encouragement as I progress in my photography.

Don't forget to check Take Great Pictures for Russ' most recent tips. On the home page, click on the "Photo Tips And Techniques" button in the left hand column. Additionally, check out his "Digital Tip of the Month" found by clicking on the Digital Photography button.


Mark Hayes said...

I don't know if I still have it but I used to have this small (less than 6") reflector that had an elastic hole in the middle. The idea was to slip it over the lens for that reflector bounce on macro shots.

Great article and of course all the same information applies for those wedding ring shots as well.

Sheba Wheeler said...

That's a great idea about the wedding ring shots too Mark!

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