Where I live, the Northeastern part of the United States, we are now in late Fall so the temperature is dropping as has all the pretty Fall foliage and we are left with, in my opinion, pretty “blah” scenery outdoors. At times like these, I begin to switch gears and do more indoor photography. I do not have an indoor studio, nor do I use artificial light much, as I prefer to almost always stick with natural light.
One very easy technique to try during this time of year is to shoot “high-key” flowers using a window. I go to either the grocery store, or local florist, and pick up a few nice looking blooms to use and then find an appropriate window. I choose a window that has indirect light and tape a stem right onto the window. For the “high-key” look, I do this on either a cloudy day or snowy day, so that the background is a fairly bright white. I position the flower so that there are no other distractions in the image, just the clean, white background. Easy as could be. Just be sure, especially if you are using white flowers, to expose so that you still see the edges of the flower against the white background.
Converting such images to Black and White can also be nice.
If you are missing the warmer temperatures and pretty blooms of Spring and Summer, give this easy technique a try and let me know how it goes.
I have decided to take part in Leanne Cole Photography’s Monochrome Madness weekly blog post. Monochrome images are submitted to her each week and she displays them all in a one post. It is a neat way to see a lot of black and white images from a large number of photographers. This was my entry:
I love a well done black and white image. What about you? Happy shooting.
Let’s talk a bit more about flower photography. Flowers are beautiful so as long as you properly expose your image, you should have a beautiful image, right? Well, not so fast. A distracting background will always detract from an image so you must pay particular attention to your entire frame, corner to corner. One way to combat a distracting background is to not have one at all- fill your frame entirely with your subject. Filling your frame in flower photography translates to power and impact.
Today, not from from where I live, a very large private estate, known as Maywood, opened it’s grounds for an annual tour to benefit the National Garden Conservancy. I have never been to Maywood and was very excited to view their grounds and gardens. Only one problem- it was a bright, sunny day. I guess for a lot of people a bright, sunny day to stroll around an amazing estate would seem ideal, but to someone interested in photographing flowers that sun was a real killjoy.
Bright, hard light does not compliment flower photography. It produces harsh shadows and really washes out color, leaving you with images that are less than pleasing. So what do you do? You can pray for some flowers to be in a shady spot, or for occasional clouds to roll by, but this really limits your shooting opportunities. In order to make due when that beautiful sunshine is trying to wreck havoc on my photography, I pull out my handy dandy collapsable diffuser. If you are into flower photography, there really is no excuse not to have one. They are extremely portable and affordable- two adjectives I love for camera gear.
The above photo demonstrates just how compact the diffuser is when folded in it’s pouch. It also weighs less than an ounce. I simply clip it onto my bag or belt loop and go. Unfolded it is 12 inches in diameter, big enough for flower photography, but not so big that it becomes difficult to handle. I got this gem for under $10.
So let’s see what it does. All of these photos are straight out of the camera, no editing whatsoever. I simply want to demonstrate how the diffuser effects light. The images on the left were taken without the diffuser, on the right with the diffuser.
Pretty dramatic difference, right? For me it simply comes down to being able to produce usable images versus throwaways. How many on the right would you keep? Happy shooting.
When creating an image manually there are a lot of factors that need to be taken into consideration in order to produce what you initially envisioned. Things like composition, lighting, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, etc. make for a rather long laundry list of items and at times certain elements can get overlooked.
For me, one element that can definitely change the feel of an image is the depth of field. This is particularly true when I am shooting close-up or macro. There have been many times when I have carefully found a composition that I really like, set up my tripod, double checked my exposure, fired away, and left the situation feeling good about what I shot, only to be somewhat disappointed when I opened the images on my computer. And the source of the disappointment? Depth of field- either too much or not enough. Let’s look at some examples of how depth of field (aperture) can impact images. These examples are straight out of the camera with no editing whatsoever.
Aperture 5.0 Aperture 14
Aperture 5.6 Aperture 22
Aperture 6.3 Aperture 13
Notice all the differences between the images, some subtle, some more dramatic. There is no right or wrong but merely creative differences. So what is this telling us? You should take into consideration what elements you want in your final image. Do you want tack sharp front to back? Do you want some softness? Do you want blurred backgrounds? All of these answers are found with depth of field.
Sometimes, however, I may not be exactly sure what will work in the final image. Maybe I want some softness, but how much? Are things really sharp all the way through? Do not rely on the LCD screen on the back of your camera to answer these questions! The screen can give you a hint but it does not tell you everything. The point is after you have a composition that you are pleased with, remember to take several shots, varying the aperture with each one. In this way you will have an opportunity to pick the one that perfectly suits your creative vision. Happy shooting.
One area of photography that I am very passionate about is Flower Photography. I remember reading an article a while back suggesting things one should never include in a photography portfolio and it included flowers. My heart sank! What do they mean? Essentially the point was, flowers in and of themselves are already beautiful so unless you do something extraordinary with your flower shots they will look like a million other flower snapshots that are out there. Point taken. I, therefore, put a lot of time and effort into shooting flowers and am very critical of my work. I almost exclusively use a 105mm macro lens, tripod, wireless cable release, etc. in order to get what I want to be sharp, very sharp.
I am a member of the New York Botanical Garden and went there today with a group of folks from my local camera club. The NYBG is a terrific place but, unfortunately, they do not allow tripods inside the Conservatory. Ever. This always poses somewhat of a problem for me because I am not very good at hand holding my DSLR with a macro lens. With practice, I am better than I used to be, but still not great. Additionally, the grounds are large so walking around with my DSLR, a couple of different lenses, tripod (can use it outside), does lead to a bit of an aching back by the end of the day. For these reasons, I made the decision that I would only use my Nikon p7700 point and shoot and my iPhone today. Truth be told, I had my DSLR and tripod in my car, just in case I panicked, but I never went back for it.
It was rather warm out today and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed walking around with no extra weight. The posted photos were either taken with the p7700 or iPhone 5s. The iPhone photos were also edited on the iPhone. I was rather pleased with the results I got. The p7700 has a macro focussing setting that allows you to get quite close. Could I have gotten better results with the DSLR? Perhaps, but for times when I don’t want to carry a lot, I will have confidence that I can still capture quality images.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sailaway from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain