Creative Flower Photography

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Well it's been some time coming but it looks like spring has finally decided to show up. Though the weather seems to be making up for lost time by throwing summer-like temperatures at us. No matter, it means soon there will be lots of spring flowers to photograph. Let's take a look at a creative flower photography technique called "shooting through". This technique adds a wash of color around the subject which comes from out of focus flowers or foliage. The idea is you have a mass of color between the camera and the flower (the main subject). The image is shot at wide aperture, such as f/4, in order to throw the mass of flowers out of focus. In addition to shooting at a wide aperture, it'll help to position your lens very close to this mass of flowers (perhaps almost touching the lens). By doing so you make it easier to turn the foreground flowers into a detail-less mass of color. Another consideration is to have a bit of distance between the foreground color and the flower. The greater the distance between these two elements the more effectively you can maintain sharp focus on the flower while keeping the foreground out of focus.

To review, here are the key elements to the setup:

  • Wide aperture
  • Lens close to the foreground mass of color (flowers or foliage)
  • Don't have the flower too close to the foreground color

Here's the same flower away from the foreground color. Using the shoot through technique transforms it from a documentary image to one with a dreamy creative flair.

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The challenge with this technique is finding the right perspective to shoot from. While you want a solid mass of color, you don't want it to obscure the subject. The key is to look for a gap in the foreground flowers, or an area where they are not so dense, and line up the subject with this area. You've got to look through your viewfinder to find the best arrangement, this isn't something you can spot with the naked eye. It's easiest to explore your options by moving around with the camera handheld. When you find the right position then go grab your tripod and fine-tune the composition.

The following two photos show an initial composition and the final composition. In the first photo the color wash is not solid enough on the right, so I moved in closer to tighten up the composition. I also did a little gardening and removed the grass poking up behind the flower (done in the field - no need to make retouching work for myself). Another benefit of moving closer is that the background is slightly more out of focus.

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