Every time I visit a park or nature area I see someone out there taking pictures. Wildflowers are among the most widely photographed subjects the world over.
That’s good and bad. Why? Because that makes floral shots a dime-a-dozen. It means that there are literally millions of shots out there. Most of those are terribly mundane. Amateur and professional alike, everybody photographs wildflowers at one point or another.
With millions of wildflower shots taken every year, how can you get your work noticed?
There are several ways that you can make your images stand out in a crowd and get attention. Close-up shots of a single blossom are everywhere. Aside from snap-shots of people, I’d say that flowers are the second most popular photo subject and every photo album I’ve ever seen has at least a few images of a single flower in them. If you do take a shot of a single blossom you’d better make it interesting; otherwise, it will be lost among the multitudes of similar compositions.
I found this pink blossom (Columbine) in Blacklick Woods Metro Park (Columbus, Ohio). There was a flower bed filled with them. I wanted to take a picture of these interesting flowers, but, a single blossom would be mundane and a cluster of them would be too busy. I needed a blossom with something in the background that would add interest but now take away from the subject itself.
One of the best ways to make a shot interesting is to include buds in the composition. They should not compete with the flower you are photographing. In this shot (left), the buds are blurry, but they have a distinct shape. Rather than pull the eye away from our subject, they add a sense of dimension and environment to the photo. The shot was also taken vertically, not cropped.
I took this shot with a Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens. The shot was taken with the aperture wide open. That gave me a shallow depth of field and nicely blurred the buds that were actually quite close to the subject. If I had used a narrow aperture the buds would have been competing with the subject of our composition. Whenever possible, frame your shot in the camera and try to avoid cropping an image. Many of my wildflower shots were taken with a Pentax *ist camera (only 6 mega-pixels). The images have been printed as large as poster-size because they are so clear and did not need cropping.
I grew up shooting medium format film cameras. Using 120 roll film (6×6 cm) was a good learning tool. In a square picture, everything in your composition matters. People don’t think about what appears in the frame along with their subject. That is how pictures are taken with a lamp sticking out of someone’s head. Don’t ruin a great photo opportunity with a distracting background.
Look at the shots below.
I want to point out a few things. First, the images feature groups of flowers, not a single blossom. Second, they fill the frame and make for a very nice rectangular print. Third, I used depth of field to keep the subject in focus and ensure that the background does not compete with it.
I highly recommend a sturdy tripod for all of your wildflower shots. You want to prevent any camera motion whatsoever. Any “macro” shot should be taken with a tripod-mounted camera, not handheld. The faster your lens, the better, but, use a tripod. Be patient and wait for any motion from wind to stop before clicking the shutter.
I have written articles about this many times over the years. Shooting wildflowers will give you greater success (commercially) when your compositions feature groups of flowers rather than a single blossom. Don’t compose a shot that includes wilted blossoms. Pick a very precise focus point and compose a shot that leads the viewer’s eyes where you want their attention.
If a flower hangs vertically, shoot it that way. Be aware of every element in your composition and make sure that nothing competes with your subject for the viewer’s eyes. Get a field guide to wildflowers and read through it. Then, plan your wildflower photo adventures to cover all seasons.