8 Use Live View
When shooting close-ups with a macro lens, even at narrow apertures, you need to get your focusing spot on, as your depth of field is so limited that any slight inaccuracy will result in blurred shots. One way round this is to use Live View (if your camera has it) to focus in manually as accurately as possible - use Live View's zoom facility and then, as above, move your camera back or forth by a few millimetres until the element that you want to be in focus is pin-sharp.
9 Shoot in manual
If you'd rather take control than let your camera decide everything for you, then shoot in manual mode. Shooting in manual enables you to choose the aperture and shutter combination that will give you the result you want. Checking your histograms will show you if you need to change a setting in order to produce a correctly exposed image. Bright flowers can fool your camera into underexposing, so shooting in manual and checking histograms can overcome this.
10 Digital camera settings for flower photography
- To achieve maximum image quality with minimum noise you should set your digital camera to the lowest ISO setting available, usually ISO 100 or 200.
- Shoot in RAW format so that the maximum amount of picture information is stored for you to work with later.
- Set White Balance to Daylight to enable easy batch editing later.
- Use single shot drive mode, rather than continuous.
- Use small apertures to maximise detail - at very close range, even the smallest aperture can result in depth of field measured in millimetres.
- Use wide apertures to emphasise a sharply focused subject against a blurred background.
11 Watch the weather
A forecast of wall-to-wall sunshine and cloudless blue skies isn't ideal for flower photography. Direct sunlight can be harsh and unforgiving, resulting in images with too much contrast, burnt-out highlights and loss of detail in shadow areas. A bright but overcast day can be perfect - the light's soft and diffuse and it's much more flattering.
12 Use a reflector
A reflector is a cheap item of equipment but it can really help to boost your flower photographs to the next level. When positioned close to an individual plant it can be angled so that it directs light into shadow areas to reveal detail and to reduce contrast. It can also be used to shade plants from harsh, direct sunlight if it isn't overcast.
13 Flash flower photography
Used in moderation, flash can help you produce impressive images, but be careful not to overdo it. An off-camera flash can be used to provide a subtle burst of side-lighting (to model your subject), or back lighting (to provide a rim-light). Macro ringflashes are ideal for flower photography, as they produce an even and flattering light, eliminating the harsh shadows that are characteristic of standard flash units. Macro ringflashes are also ideal for picking out reflective details, such as grains of pollen or raindrops.
14 Take your time
When you first encounter a beautiful park or garden it can be quite daunting and difficult to know where to start. Try to be methodical in your approach - you're more likely to produce impressive photos. Don't start taking photos as soon as you arrive unless you know where to go to get the best shots. Have a walk round and explore your surroundings. Keeping your camera away will help in the long run!
15 Make a note of the name
Flowers and plants in formal gardens are often accompanied by a stick, which bears both their common and/or Latin names. If you want your images used in books or magazines these details are vital. It can be easy to think you'll remember it but after a few more photos or a few days you'll forget. It only takes a minute to write it down.