I enjoy photographing faces more than flowers! But after having delivered myself one morning to the exercise I share with you my technical and artistic advice to photograph the flowers well.
A Macro lens
You can photograph flowers with any lens. But if you want really exceptional flower pictures, I recommend a macro lens. All the pictures I present here were taken with a Canon 100mm Macro USM f/2.8 (the “normal” version, not the new L version). Flowers are the preferred terrain for this lens, which seems to have been designed exactly for this purpose: excellent colour reproduction and the ability to capture details that are barely visible to the naked eye.
In fixed focal length there are real macro lenses in focal lengths 50, 60, 90, 90, 100 and 180. The 100mm is my favorite focal length because it allows me to work at about 30 cm from my subject.
If you are not lucky enough to have a lens dedicated to the macro, some generalist zooms allow a significant magnification factor and are therefore freely labelled “macro”.
Not really essential, but if you use a macro lens your depth of field may be tiny. So you will close your diaphragm to increase (a little) the depth of field – but you will lose a lot of light in the process. So either you agree to go up in the ISOs, or you have a tripod.
That said, these photos were all taken by freehand in grey weather, ensuring that my speed was at least 1/250 of a second.
A remote trigger
If you have the tripod, while you are doing so, take a remote shutter release to avoid motion blur. Or use a self-timer. It’s not like you’re trying to capture a child’s expression!
Be absolutely careful with your focus
With a depth of field of a few millimeters it is essential that you take care of your focus. Think before you trigger: what do you want to capture? The drop of water, the pistilles, the flower as a whole?
Use live view and manual focus
If you work on a tripod then I advise you to use the live view and manual focus. This is the method that will give you the most accuracy. If you work like me today by a show of hands, drop this recommendation.
Take care of your exposure parameters
I almost always photograph in priority mode on the diaphragm and for flowers I do the same. I close my diaphragm according to the depth of field I want. But especially according to the distance from the background. I try to isolate the background so with a close background I will work at f/2.8 and with a further background I will be at f/11 – f/13 for greater sharpness over the whole image. Then I adjust shutter speed and ISO to get a good exposure.
Beware of reds and yellows
Canon equipment tends to overexpose the red channel and to a lesser extent the yellow channel. You will have a picture well exposed on the general histogram, but by checking the RGB histogram you will see the red channel blocked: be careful! So with flowers be very careful with all color channels, not just the general channel. And underexpose if necessary.
In general when I am in front of a red flower I tend to under-expose by almost 2 diaphs. And in front of a yellow flower 1 diaph.
Photograph in RAW
As always. White balance, sharpness, recovery of clogged areas, etc., etc…
Take pictures in the rain
The flowers are more beautiful when wet. You can work with an umbrella in the rain. But in fact the most pleasant moment is just after the rain, when the leaves are really all wet. The big disadvantage is that the rain makes the flowers move so you have unclear pictures at all. That’s why you have to take a picture just after a heavy rainfall.
Be careful, you only have an hour or two before the drops dry so don’t delay: time is against you! (who would have thought that photographing her with flowers would be so exciting!)