Many people are fascinated by the beauty and complexity of plants. They have complex structures, vibrant colors and fascinating patterns. Unfortunately, most people see plants as nothing more than an eyesore, something to be gotten rid of or hidden from view. This is a shame because there is so much to be learned about plants by paying attention to their details.
In this article, I will share with you some of my favorite techniques for photographing plants. You will learn some new ideas and approaches that will help you capture beautiful images of plants, no matter what kind of photography you are doing.
Why Photograph Plants?
Sunset over a cactus field
NIKON D610 – Focal Length 50mm – Aperture ƒ/4 – Shutter Speed 1/250s – ISO 100
Plants are often overlooked as subject matter for photographers, yet they can be the most visually interesting part of any image.
Look at a bouquet of flowers and notice how each individual blossom or leaf is unique, yet they all blend into a pleasing whole. This is true with plants too – each one has its own character and personality, yet they all fit together to create a harmonious whole.
When you get to know them, you will discover a world of surprising and delightful patterns, textures, and colors. And there are so many different ways to use them in your images, it is truly a “treasure trove” of photographic opportunities.
Even if you are a complete beginner, you will be surprised at how well you can capture the essence of a plant with a simple camera and lens combination.
When Should I Take My Plant Photos?
Canon 6D – Focal Length 100mm – Aperture ƒ/3.2 – Shutter Speed 1/320s – ISO 200
If you don’t know when to take your plant photos, you might as well not take any. There are no hard and fast rules, but here are a few guidelines to help you decide:
Try to take your plant photos when it is most active. If it is a day-lily, for example, that means in the morning or early afternoon. If it is a night-blooming flower, take your photos when it is at its peak around sunset or just after sunrise.
Try to take your photos when the weather is at it’s best. If you are taking photos of a houseplant, for instance, this probably means a sunny day with no chance of rain. If you are taking photos of a tree or a garden, try to take them when the weather is not too hot degrees and not too cold.
Try to take your photos when the light is diffused, the light will be softer, more flattering… and your photos will look better.
Best Time Of Day To Shoot
Early morning or late afternoon are the two times of day I find to be most favorable for taking good photos. Sunlight is just beginning to peek over the horizon when the morning dew has evaporated and the plants are at their freshest. During the late afternoon, the light is soft and the colors are at their peak. You can use this fact to your advantage when you are shooting plants.
Plant Photography Composition
It is a well known fact that people respond to graphic impact in a far stronger way than they do to literal content. A photograph that communicates in a very clear and concise way what it is you are trying to communicate will always be more effective than a photograph that is cluttered with words.
Use a Macro Lens
Canon 6D – Focal Length 100mm – Aperture ƒ/13 – Shutter Speed 1/160s – ISO 250
A macro lens is a great tool for getting close-up photos of plants and flowers. It allows you to get down so close, you can see the individual hairs on a spider’s web or the details on a butterfly’s wings. You can use a macro lens to take pictures of almost anything, but it is especially useful for taking close-up shots of plants and flowers.
A good beginner’s macro lens is the 100mm 2.8 macro lens. It’s inexpensive, easy to use and gives surprisingly good results. I suggest you start with this lens and then, as your skills improve, you can upgrade to a more advanced lens.
Tips For Creative Plant Photography
1 – Embrace Low Depth-of-Field
“We were walking throught the forest in autum, all around were mushrooms as as an explosion of life. I hope this shot reflect this concept”
Canon EOS 1000D – Focal Length 50mm – Aperture ƒ/2.5 – Shutter Speed 1/200s – ISO 200
Low DOF is one of the most powerful techniques in all of photography. It can be used for both close-ups and distant shots. When you use it for close-ups, it blurs the background so much, it becomes part of the subject. This is one of the most useful techniques for shooting plants, especially if you have a macro lens with a large aperture like f/2.8 or large.
2 – Frame Your Subject
It is very important to understand how to frame your subject in order for it to look good in your photograph. Framing is the process of deciding where you want the viewer’s eye to be drawn to. Framing is often overlooked by amateurs, but it is one of the most important skills a photographer can have.
Look at the scene in front of you and ask, “What is the main point of interest in this scene?” The answer will almost always be the subject you are trying to photograph. So, decide where you want the viewer’s attention to be – center-framed or left or right of the scene, or even above or below the scene.
Framing is one of those things that is very hard to teach, but once you get the hang of it, you will be astonished at how often great photos are taken with almost no thought whatsoever put into the photo.
3 – Backgrounds
The secret of good backgrounds for plant photos is quite simple – the background should be just as interesting as the main subject.
If you are photographing flowers, for example, don’t put a generic background with only a few rocks in it. Instead, use a background with interesting shapes and colors that echo those of the flower petals. If you are photographing vegetables or fruits, go for an autumnal color scheme with yellows and oranges, and include a variety of textures and foliage. This will make your photos more interesting and more likely to be selected by viewers.
4 – Look For Patterns Or Special Shapes
NIKON D3200 – Focal Length 50mm – Aperture ƒ/2.0 – Shutter Speed 1/250s – ISO 100
In nature, the most common patterns are found in plant life. Patterns of branches, twigs, leaves and flowers can be used to create striking compositions.
Remember, however, that what may look like a single flower or leafy branch is often made up of many individual plants. To get the most from your flower or foliage images, make sure that what appears to be one subject is, in fact, several smaller subjects. Experiment with this technique and you will soon find it pays off big time.
Look for the commonplace and shoot it with all the passion you can muster. You will be amazed at how often some seemingly insignificant aspect of a subject will catch your eye, draw you to it, and make it stand out.
5 – Plant Photography Angle
Panasonic DMC-GF3 – Focal Length 20mm – Aperture ƒ/1.7 – Shutter Speed 1/125s – ISO 160
If you want to learn how to take great plant photos, you should pay attention to the light. Here are a few tips:
+ Move around a bit. Don’t just stand there like a statue. This will help you to find the best light for your photo.
+ Find the sun. Most often, the sun will be coming from the direction you don’t want to put your subject. So, find a place where there is a lot of diffused (not direct) sunlight and shoot from there.
+ Take lots of photos. You should always take at least three or four shots of each plant. And take them with different angles. That way, if any one of the photos doesn’t turn out great, you’ll still have others to choose from.
6 – Experiment With Colour Temperatures
Many photographers struggle with this but the color of a flower or plant is determined by its color temperature. It is a relative measure of the warmth or coolness of a color.
Warm colors like red and orange have a high color temperature while blue and purple have a low one. The color of the light hitting a subject will be affected by the color temperature of the light source, hence why a sunset has a very different color cast from the same sunset seen in daylight.
Experiment with the color temperatures of your light source and see how it affects your flowers and plants. You can do this in-camera using the white balance feature on your camera, or you can use a neutral density (ND) filter to alter the color temperature of the light hitting your subject.
7 – Experiment With Movement
Movement in plants can be subtle – a swaying branch, the unfolding of a leaf, or even the vibrations of the plant as it grows. Sometimes, a little “undulating” action will make for more compelling images. Try to catch the action as it happens – you may find that a movement image will give you better results than the one with still.
8 – Getting More Creative With Plant Photography
Sony ILCE-7M2 – Focal Length 75mm – Aperture ƒ/2.8 – Shutter Speed 1/500s – ISO 100
When I first started writing about photography, one of the most common questions I got was, “How do I get more creativity in my photography?” My answer then was to simply ask, “How did you get more creativity in your writing?” and the person would say something like, “By writing what I felt.” And I would say, “Well, that’s what you need to do with your photography.
Find a park, a nature preserve, or even a local farm and spend some time exploring. Many of the places you will find interesting plants are far from where you would expect to find them – in abandoned lots, along railway tracks, or even in the middle of a busy street.
Look for unusual ways to present plants… Consider unusual props… Use the background to your advantage… Look for interesting light effects… Look for unusual colors… And most of all, don’t be afraid to get a little weird. Plants are very photogenic and the creative uses to which you can put them are virtually endless.
9 – Use Your Imagination
Canon EOS 550D – Focal Length 105mm – Aperture ƒ/9 – Shutter Speed 1/0.4s – ISO 100
Many people say they don’t like taking photos of plants… But that’s only if they are doing it “by the book.” The secret is to use your imagination !
It doesn’t matter how unappealing or dull the subject is – if you can make it interesting, you will find yourself fascinated by the process of creating the photo, and you will end up with something you will treasure for a lifetime.
Try to see each plant as a unique individual with its own character and personality, and not just a mass-production item to be photographed in the same way you would a person. Look for ways to make each plant stand out from the others; this might be the unusual color, shape, or texture of a leaf, the position of a branch, or simply the fact it is growing out of the ordinary soil.
10 – Out Of Season
The key to good plant photography is all about light. When you are shooting in season, the light is usually warm, flattering, and pleasing to the eye. But out of season, you can exploit light in different ways – from direct sunlight to the golden glow of an overcast day to the eerie blue-green of twilight or even the stark white of a snow covered landscape. Don’t be afraid of using these harsh light sources; in fact, by using them you can often make your subjects look more lifelike and vibrant.
Plant photography is the art of capturing the beauty of plants and flowers. It is a very interesting hobby and you should try it at least once. You should take pictures of different types of flowers and see how they look like when they are close to you.
You should also try to take photos of the different stages of the life of the plants. This way, you will be able to capture the beauty of the plant in all of its stages.
I hope that you like these tips and we wish you good luck on this wonderful journey!