The spectacular, vibrant patterns that both flowers and insect life offer provide us with an endless array of photographic opportunities. No wonder flower and insect photos are everywhere.
The experience is both peaceful and solitary, allowing one to slow down and connect with the subtle details of nature.
Rather than settling for static compositions, my goal is to further accentuate the beauty of these subjects with creative photographic techniques.
Here are some of my favorite tips, for you to try capturing Flower and Insect Photos.
1. Practice Indoors
Before venturing outside, it’s helpful to practice your flower photography at home with a store bought bouquet. With no wind to move and blur your subject, you can focus on making well-lit and sharp images.
Expensive studio equipment is not necessary to create stunning results.
To start, position the vase near a window with abundant sunshine. Couple this with a basic desk lamp to create rather dramatic light. For an added touch of brilliance, use a silver or gold reflector to soften the shadows.
If you don’t have a reflector, it’s easy to make one by taping an 8×10 piece of aluminum foil to a piece of cardboard.
2. Shoot Through Petals
It may seem counter intuitive, but I often search for leaves or flower petals that are positioned in front of my subject.
Don’t worry if it largely blocks your main subject as the extremely shallow depth of field will render it nearly transparent. The closer your lens is, the more out of focus it will become.
I then shoot through this first element by placing my lens mere inches away from it. Coupled with a very wide aperture of f2.8 this technique will create a beautiful wash of color in both the foreground and background.
This is the result of the extremely shallow depth of field, keeping less of the frame in focus and allowing for more creative results.
If you’re using a zoom lens, for example an 18-55mm, set it to the longer end. This will help to compress the out of focus areas, enhancing the look even further.
Carefully compose so that you can still see your subject in the background. Now that you’ve created this colorful out of focus area, you’ll need to make sure the actual subject is sharp. You can do this with autofocus if you set a single active AF point.
Simply place this point on top of the subject you want sharpest and squeeze your shutter half way to achieve focus. This involves a bit of trial and error at first but can absolutely give your flower shots a truly unique look.
The technique is simple but yields a sophisticated look that’s reminiscent of an impressionist painting.
3. Embrace The Rain
One of the best times to photograph flowers is just after a rain storm. The water drops left behind will add more visual interest to your close up work.
In dry areas some photographers even bring a spray bottle filled with water to recreate a similar look. I look for drops that hang precariously from the edge of a leaf, and those that appear just seconds from falling to the ground.
To really capture the delicate beauty of the drops move closer to the subject either with your feet, or by zooming in.
4. Get Low
Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty as the most interesting point of view is often that of an insect. I set my camera up very low to the ground on a tripod.
Using a camera support system makes the process more deliberate and allows one to focus and compose with great care. If your camera has a “live view” mode with a swivel out screen, it makes for more convenient viewing.
In a pinch you can even rest your camera on the ground and angle the lens skyward with a stone, or your lens cap.
5. Keep Experimenting
Perhaps the biggest challenge is in creating something a bit different from a mere record shot. One alternative is to create a double exposure.
You can do this in-camera on many models, or as a composite in your favorite image-editing software (check our tips on editing flower photography in Lightroom here). I find it more fun to do it with the camera. To start, take a well exposed image of the flower, making sure it’s properly focused.
Then for the second shot, switch the camera to manual focus and place the lens just inches away from the flower petals. Fill the frame with this subject and make sure it is completely out of focus.
This will result in a soft wash of color that overlays your first image.
6. Include Butterflies
Depending on who you ask, the butterfly affects people’s lives in a variety of ways. To some, they’re a symbol of exquisite beauty.
This comes as no surprise of course, especially considering their vibrant colors and multi-patterned wings. Still, others can personally relate to the amazing transformative process of a butterfly’s life.
From a tightly woven cocoon to its ultimate flying form, this creature represents growth and change.
7. Add a Bit of Flash
You may not think to use the flash on a bright sunny day. Yet, when it comes to highlighting the fine details of a butterfly, a little bit of artificial light is quite effective.
Even tiny bits of pollen on a flower will be more evident with this method.
If you’re interested in experimenting with a more technical approach, you can underexpose the background and use the flash to illuminate the main subject.
8. Wait For a Lull in the Action
A butterfly may not beat its wings as rapidly as a hummingbird, but a fast shutter speed is still necessary to freeze their wing motion.
My recommended starting point is no slower than 1/250th of a second. Any slower and the image suffers from blur. You can also use non-technical trick and wait for the lulls in action before shooting.
A butterfly will often dance about the flowers before settling on a spot for several seconds. Resting with its wings open, you’ll have a perfect opportunity to capture its full beauty.
Fore more cool close up photography ideas, why not try some abstract macro shots or learn to get the most out of iphone macro photography!