Photographing Flowers, Not Distractions

Photographing Flowers, Not Distractions

Spring is here! The insects and birds are returning to do their part in making this world beautiful. The gardens are filling with joyful colors, fragrances, and subtle textures. It’s time to pack a bag for the day and enjoy a walk through the gardens, whether its someplace like Longwood Gardens or your own back yard. You can take in the beauty that the world has to offer during this season…but don’t forget your camera and extra batteries.

Close-up Sunflower created by Melissa Fague - Nature Photography

Close-up Sunflower created by Melissa Fague – Nature Photography

Is it a distraction or a creative element?

Gardens are filled with all kinds of photographic possibilities but there are also a lot of potential distractions too. They might be the tool shed, a fence, other flowers, electrical lines, people etc. The photographer must be aware of these elements and make a decision on whether to include these elements or remove them from the photograph. There is no wrong answer to this decision. It just depends on how the photographer wants his or her photograph to appear. In my opinion, if these elements could enhance the photograph, I say go for it! However, there are a number of options to remove distracting elements if they do not fit in with the photographic design:

  • move them – if the items can be moved easily…move it
  • move yourself – Changing your own angle could eliminate the distractions very quickly…just look for the possibility of new ones.
  • crop them out – zoom in or move closer to the flower to create a tighter framing of the flower
  • Narrow Depth of Field with your Aperture – if you choose a wider aperture (small numbers) you’ll decrease the depth of field. This will blur any items in the foreground or background of your image
  • move your subject – personally I’m not a big fan of this one but it is an option

Identify a Focal Point

Having a Focal point is present in all types of photography. As you are shooting, you need to think about where you want your viewer’s eye to be drawn to in the image. Make considerations like using the rule of thirds, using leading lines, such as a fence rail to lead the viewer’s eyes to a flower in bloom. Make sure your subject or focal point is in sharp focus. Identify the point of interest that you want to be in focus, then work hard to ensure that it’s as sharp as possible. This can be a real challenge, especially outdoors on breezy days where you’ll probably end up taking many photos. The best advice is: take your tripod and something to block the breeze from moving the delicate petals of the flower.


Lighting is very important to every field of Photography and every create idea; there is no exception to shooting flowers. Pay attention to the light that is reflecting off your subject. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • How does this type of light help with my visual design of this photograph?
  • Is the light causing the color to be over saturated?
  • Could I lose detail because the highlights are so bright?
  • Is there enough light?
  • Would a flash help?

Ideally, your subject will be perfectly lit without you needing to add or subtract light. However, the world of Macro and Nature Photography is often far from ideal because of the outdoor setting. There is a good possibility that you might need to intervene with artificial lights, reflectors, or diffusers. Or your creative ideas might simply be unique to you and your style.

Using the Light Sources

Using a flash is something each person should experiment with because of the creative possibilities and the high concentration of light. Generally, the use of a direct flash on automatic mode would wash photos out depending on how close the light source is placed to the subject. So, flash diffusers or reflecting the flash off another object maybe in your best interest if you want a subtle addition of light on your subject. Reflectors can also be handy in shooting flowers to reflect the natural sunlight into shadowed area of the flower. Reflectors can be something as simple as foil wrapped over a piece of cardboard or a blank piece of white cardboard. Once again the creative possibilities do not end there, you can always experiment with different colored reflectors to create more dramatic moods in the image. If you do not have remote flashes, take a flash light with you. I always have a flashlight in my camera bag for fill light or Light Painting techniques…Light Painting is another subject that we will be blogging about soon.


Melancholy Flower created by Melissa Fague - Nature Photography

Melancholy Flower created by Melissa Fague – Nature Photography

Reducing the Light

Just as light can be added, light can be subtracted from a scene. There are simple steps that you can take to reduce the light on your subject.

  • Shadowing– Simply placing your body between the light source and the subject will cast a shadow on the subject.
  • Reflectors – That’s right, the reflectors can also dub as a diffuser to block the light.
  • Fabric Filters – There are fabric filters called scrims that diffuse the light so that the light is not so intense.
  • Underexposing – Underexposing the image can cut down on the light. This can be achieved by changing your ISO, Shutter, or aperture settings.
  • ND Filters – Neutral Density Filters are filters you can attach to your camera lens. The filters come in a variety sizes and shades. Check online or at your local camera store for more information.
  • Wait – Wait until the light, such as the sun, has moved.

The internet is flooded with images of flowers. Why? Because flowers are naturally beautiful and there is also of the abundance of them worldwide, flowers can even have special meaning to people. But the vast majority of the floral images found on the internet are simple snapshots that someone took quickly and went on their way. When you are going out to photograph your flowers, take a little time and study them. Study the flower itself and the surrounds; come up with an idea of how you would like this photograph turn out…don’t just take a snap shot. The more you work at creating your vision or invoking an emotion, the more you will feel like you are creating art; that is what adds value to the image. Those emotions or creativity are what “WOWs” people and inspires them to display the images on their walls.

6 thoughts on “Photographing Flowers, Not Distractions

  1. reocochran

    I am one who likes the distractions included in my photos! I also enjoyed your ‘lessons’ for me to try to do better at photographing flowers and nature. This was very interesting.

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