How Photographing Flowers and Leaves Can Help You Be a Better Photographer – #52PicsProject
It’s been raining on Australia’s south east coast for near on 3 weeks now. On and off it has drizzled and rained, sometimes torrential and wind driven, but it’s still warm, balmy. It’s like living in a sauna, sweaty armpits, frizzy hair and all. So it hasn’t been at all enticing to take my cameras out and explore. However on my way walking to the train station this morning I spied this single yellowing maple leaf lying forlorn in the middle of the road. Risking life and limb in the morning peak hour I took out my iPhone and snapped a couple of photos. I love the way it lies on the road in stark contrast to the black asphalt. The photo has a lot of texture, not only from the road but also the leaf itself. Notice the way the veins on the leaf stand out and how the colour looks almost like it is bleeding. And even better – this one solitary leaf is a reminder that autumn is on its way. Adios summer, it’s been fun but it’s time you left.
Taking these shots this morning got me to thinking about how photographing flowers and leaves and all sorts of flora can help you be a better photographer. When budding photographers get their first cameras often they take to photographing flowers. I know I did and I still love doing it – at home, on road trips and even on trips overseas. Photographing the wild flowers in Meteora in Central Greece is still one of the highlights of my travels. Now some “Professional Photographers” (that’s with two capital P’s) will maintain this is amateurish and something only beginners pursue. Well I have two words for you stuffed shirts – Robert Mapplethorpe. Robert was one of America’s most revered and emulated photographers and is well known for his sensitive and beautiful “flower portraits”. He is also known for his less sensitive, erotic art depicting the BDSM subculture of New York in the 1970’s but we’re here to talk flowers. Check out some of his flower portraits here.
Here are some ways photographing flowers can improve your photography skills:
1. Depth of field:
Learning about depth of field in photography is probably one of the best things you can do. Everyone loves those photos that have a central point of focus with everything else in the background a lovely creamy blur. This is achieved by using a large aperture. Talking aperture can take you down a long winding rabbit hole so best we not go there. Suffice it to say if you set your aperture to it’s lowest number (f/1.8 – f/3.5 depending on your lens) you can achieve this effect. Practising this technique in a garden full of flowers can produce some pretty pics and take up the better part of an afternoon.
2. The rule of thirds:
Getting the rule of thirds right is one way to give balance to your composition. Imagine your screen on the back of your camera has a grid that divides into three vertically and horizontally – the main subject of your photo should be placed on the intersections of this grid. This will make your composition appear more balanced. But as with all rules, don’t be afraid to break them and come up with something even more creative.
Getting exposure right is tricky sometimes particularly if you are photographing in a garden that may have dappled light, shadows and some areas of strong sunshine. So practicing under these conditions is definitely going to improve your exposure capabilities. Practice, practice, practice. Remember ISO, aperture, shutter speed. Unless you’re going for a creative blurry look your shutter speed shouldn’t be lower than 1/125. I tend to err on under exposure rather than over expose. You can always brighten the photo later but if your highlights are blown out there is nothing you can do.
Nothing will get you noticing colour more than photographing flowers, that’s guaranteed. I think what you need to be looking out for is how colours complement and contrast with each other in their surroundings and how that can make a good photograph. Projects can be developed around colour – photographing only flowers that are red perhaps. You can come up with so many creative projects around these ideas.
5. Contrast and texture:
Two elements of a photograph that add interest are contrast and texture. Take a look at what you are photographing – look at the leaves – has your photo picked up the veins of the leaf, the way the leaf is starting to curl? Is there enough contrast in the photo? Could you perhaps move slightly so that from another perspective the light better shows up the details of your subject? Take lots of photos from different angles and then look at them on your computer later take note of the different effects achieved.
What: A single maple leaf. Photographing flora.
When: March 18, 2017 7.30am
Why: I love photographing flowers and leaves – they make beautiful subjects.
Camera: Apple iPhone 6S
Tips: See above.