18 May 2011

Languishing's Guide to Flower Photos of which to be Proud

Everyone's always saying to me, "Jen, your flower photos inspire me to take more pictures! And try more new and unusual foods! And donate more plasma!" (Okay, no one has actually said any of those things. Except in my head). And they also say "How do you do it? How do you make it look so easy?" So this post is a loving answer to the voices in my head. If you're not one of the voices, and/or don't care about taking kick-ass flower photos, feel free to stop reading right now.

Pre-tip #A: These tips don't just apply to flowers, but to many, many photography subjects. And also, I don't have any idea what I'm doing, so you should probably ignore me a find a real photographer's blog to learn anything worthwhile.

Tip #1: Take lots, and lots, and lots of pictures. Just keep clicking. Once you know your digital camera well enough to take a non-blurry photo about 75% of the time, you can just go to town. Take several shots of each subject, and consider trying photographs at different times during the day. High noon can be lovely, but so can eight in the evening. And morning sunshine in May is a whole nother thing than you recall, I bet. I will often take 100 pictures in an average day, and cut down to 60 just by reviewing in the camera (though if there's any doubt, wait and look at them on a larger screen!). Then I often end up with around 30 or 40 after viewng them on the laptop. If I'm recording an event, like a birthday party, I often don't cut that many, because I want to make sure I have some photos of everyone. But with flowers? You get one or two great shots of a flower, you're probably good. If you want more, go ahead. I won't mutter about your obsessive tendencies behind your back. Much.
Anyhoo, my point is, you can always delete the ones that don't work, but if you took only 6 photos and none of them are fantastic, well, you're pretty much screwed.  The joy of digital is deleting the stupid pictures.

Tip #2: Try different angles! This is true of all subjects. Many people just take photos from wherever their point of view is: this gives us nearly aerial views of kids and dogs and anything shorter than the photographer. And upsettingly nasal views of Uncle Roger, if the photographer is shorter than him.
 At the very least, get down to eye-level, and pretend you're a garden gnome. Remember those cheesy elementary school tulip drawings you used to do? With the petals and the v between them, and then when you got fancy you drew another petal between the v? Well, you were right. That's pretty much how a tulip looks from the side.
 From the top, though, up close (use that handy macro setting on your camera. It even shows a picture of a tulip to indicate the macro! This means you!), this looks like a whole new flower. The purpley-red goodness really shows here, and the lovely symmetry.
Same damn tulip, shot from below. I love shots from below. Yes, you have to get down on the ground. Sometimes you get twigs in your hair, or ants. Pay attention so you don't get anything worse than that. This is a bit dark (these photos in this post are all unretouched, save for occassional cropping), because this tulip is in the shade, but I love how totally transformed the same flower is, just by changing my perspective.

Tip #3: Fill your frame!  If you're taking a photo of a tulip, make sure the tulip is CLEARLY the subject. If you take a photo of a tulip and twelve dandelions, you can't expect your viewers to know what you're getting at.  When photographing flowers, I like to get as close as my camera will let me without getting blurry, which is pretty close.

 Yes, you can see ferns and undergrowth behind the red tulip, but any closer and I would've been all Georgia O'Keefey. Which I'm totally for, by the way. But today I just wanted that classic yellow and black framed by red and green.
 One of the peony tulips, above, spreading fast. It will probably be gone by tomorrow.
I found the center of this peony tulip the most interesting part, so I got all up in its business. This is not as effective with people, as some of them might not like that. But flowers don't seem to mind atall.

Tip #4: Don't be afraid to crop! Since you've filled your frame, you have even more to work with. You can save the original as a separate file, if you're nervous like that, but especially if you have one of those newer type digital cameras, you've got enough megapixels for major croppage.
Even if you'd never seen a purple-black tulip in person, this photo lets you see the very texture of the petals! I'm impressed with myself, even. (This is a crop of the first photo in the post, under Tip #2)

 And you don't always have to crop to make things centered or to remove that glimpse of your camera strap. You can crop for effect, to show the fabulous pink stripes, above,
or to illustrate the feather-like translucency of flower petals. This was shot from below, on macro, and cropped down. Plus, I turned this one on its side, because I like that it's framed by mostly sky and a little tree, and looks like it just poked in from the right.

Be adventurous in your cropping. Maybe you wanted a photo of a tulip, but it turns out the sky is way prettier. Crop that pesky tulip out! Or leave in just a little. Or whatever. Cropping is fun for young and old!

Tip #5: Mind the riff-raff. We've all had great photos ruined by some weird Anderson kid who pops up in the background at the last minute and you don't realize it until you get your film developed. But he's not the riff-raff I'm talking about here. I mean the stuff in the background we tend to ignore: the neighbor's can collection, the wires in the backyard, the peeling paint on the northeast corner of the house. They may be ignorable in real life, but in photos, they are less so. Case in point:

Did I know those wires were there? Sure. Do I want them in my photo? Nope. The thing is, when I shoot from below, I sometimes do it blind (so as not to get ants and twigs in my hair) and just take a bunch and check them later. Had I just shot from the other side of these tulips, those wires would never have been in the background. But I didn't, and I was lazy, and now I have this lovely, translucent tulip shot full of ugly wires in the background. That'll teach me. (Well, not really. But maybe it'll teach you).

There you have it, folks. Languishing's first 5 tips to Flower Photos of which to be Proud.  "First five?" the voices are asking Yes, voices, there are more. You'll just have to stay tuned to find out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Is your next book a book on creative photography? I like it!