Photography News | Issue 47 | absolutephoto.com
1/100sec at f/5.6, ISO 180
Above Although floral subjects are a great source of striking colour, your background is also very important. When you’ve found a great specimen to shoot, try to line it up with a contrasting or neutral background to so that its hues stand out, like the blue against green here.
Shooting outdoors Despite the challenges of shooting florals outdoors, it’s very much David’s favourite place to photograph. “It makes life more difficult as you have less control over the light than ina studio.Andoutdoors tends tobemore windy than indoors, of course! But the sensual pleasures of being outdoors – the warmth on a summer’s afternoon, the earthy smell of a garden – all make up for any inconveniences.” He also enjoys the natural light, picking slightly overcast days as being the best for his work: “If the light levels are still reasonably high, but the light is soft, it’s ideal.” Not that the outdoors is completely uncontrollable. David uses both reflectors and diffusers when shooting his florals, to improve the look of the lighting. “Asmall reflector is ideal for bouncing light up into flowers that overhang, and this will help to reduce contrast with the background, especiallywhen it’s the sky, aswell as illuminating the inside of the flower.” Diffusers are just as important for shooting florals, as they’ll give you a measure of control over direct sunlight, effectively providing the soft, shadowless light of an overcast day. “The key with a diffuser,” says David, “is to ensure that the entire scene you’re shooting is covered by it. If part of the background or foreground is in direct sunlight you can end up with ugly, often burnt out, highlights.” Similarly, if David is using flash for his floral shots, he attaches a softbox and uses wireless triggering: “This lets me place the
flash at a more aesthetically pleasing angle to the subject, than it would be fired directly from the camera.” Plan for success Whatever improvements you can make when shooting will save you time in processing shots, and as David says, “I try to keep post- production to a minimum as I’d much rather be out shooting”. That said, he does shoot Raw so there’s “always some tweaking to be done, mainly confined to colour and contrast adjustments, as well as correcting any lens problems such as chromatic aberrations, or other distortions.” Finally, he makes sure to clone out distractions like any insects or imperfect parts of the plant or flower. On the latter subject, David points out that timing is important for florals; the best of a specimen may last only a few days or a week: “Nature isn’t perfect so it can be a challenge to find the ideal subject, and there’s a narrow window of time when, particularly the most delicate subjects, are just right for photography. It doesn’t take long before the elements and insects start to take their toll.” We’ve just time for one last tip from David, so ask him what the most important non-photographic part of his kit is. “A good kneeling mat is worth its weight in gold,” he laughs, “it’s amazing how so many flowers are inconveniently close to the ground.”
Embrace the softness and shoot with the aperture wide-open. This is the method I prefer
1/1000sec at f/4, ISO 400
David’s book, Mastering Macro Photography (paperback, 176pp, Ammonite Press, £19.99), is available now online and from all good bookshops. Many of the images in this article are taken from the book, but florals represent just the start of the macro learnings on offer. The book is a definitive guide to digital macro photography, starting with the basics of equipment, focusing, exposure and magnification ratios, and then moving on to creative stuff like lighting, colour, and composition. Advanced techniques like focus stacking are clearly explained, too.
Above Although the summer provides lots of choice in terms of floral subjects, many will only be at their best for a few days; careful planning can help you shoot them in top condition.
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