How to take Great Flower Photos without a Macro Lens
August 28, 2019
Are you interested to try some flower photography but you get discouraged by guides telling you to get a macro lens? I was too at first, but macro is not the only way to get some amazing pictures. Keep reading for some tips on how to take great flower photos without a macro lens or buying any new equipment or accessory.
Flower Photography Detail Close Up
Detail and depth of field
One of the reasons photographers recommend a macro lens is to capture small details with shallow depth of field. Some offer alternatives like extension tubes or reverse rings that allow you to focus while being very close to your subject. This is, in fact, a nice look for flower photography, but if you’re not ready to invest in new gear, there are other ways to get it.
Focal Distance: 55mm, f/13, 1/400th, ISO 640
I shot this image using a 55mm lens with f/13, 1/400th shutter speed and 640 ISO. As you can see, I managed to get reasonably close, so never let the lack of equipment prevent you from practicing.
You can start by using a wide aperture and the longest focal distance you have to experiment from there. In order to make the best out of the equipment you have, check out the article How to Control Depth of Field in Your Photography.
Draw inspiration from nature
Now that we’ve covered the macro effect, let’s broaden the horizon and think big. There’s much more to flower photography than just the details. Flowers come in all shapes and colors, so include all those natural elements and use them to your advantage.
There are many rules that you can use as guidelines to create interesting images. To learn more about them I recommend the article How to Apply Compositional Theory to Still Life Photography.
In this photo below, I lowered my point of view so I could create three different segments following the rule of thirds: flowers, trees, and the sky.
The Rule of Thirds and point of view help your composition.
Using color as a compositional element is very easy to do when photographing flowers. Because they are so vibrant, you’ll always find one that stands out. You can put contrasting colors next to each other to make elements stand out while still being in harmony. You can start by isolating a subject against the background and work your way up to include more elements.
Tones or patterns
Another way to use color in your images is to use only one to dominate the image. It may sound easy and perhaps dull, but in reality, if you incorporate different tones of the same color or a pattern, it can become a subject in itself. Megan Kennedy wrote a number of articles here on DPS called Master Colors Series covering the psychology and evolution of each color. Check them all out for inspiration!
The cultural aspect
Now that we’ve passed aesthetics and are into content let’s say that flowers are much more than just pretty subjects. They speak their own language as we have given them all sorts of cultural meanings. The color, the season, and even the presentation change our perception. We use them in joyous celebrations and on the occasion of grief, passing through all other kinds of events. When you incorporate this matter on top of the visual aspect, things can become really interesting.
Defining the line between photography genres is always a tricky subject. Are all flower photography images a still life? No. Are all still life images flower photography? Also, no. But the two genres often intersect, so play within that field to stage your images. You can use different elements, adjust the lighting and even some post-production. To get you started here are some Simple Methods for Creating Better Still Life Images.