10 Tips for Photographing Flowers at Home
Story and Photos by Lori A Cash
December 18, 2020
Flowers are great subjects to capture for beautiful and stunning images. Photographing flowers at home is an excellent way to take pictures of beautiful flowers, especially in this COVID time, and an added benefit is that photographing flowers at home can be done any time of the year such as in spring or summer or even fall or winter. Photographing flowers in your home is not weather dependent and, therefore, can be done anytime of the day.
Flowers are one of the most popular photography subjects due to the variety of the colors, styles and shapes of flowers. Sometimes photographing flowers outside can be very difficult as the weather, such as wind, rain or limited lighting, dictates your ability as to when you can photograph flowers. However, when photographing flowers indoors, you dictate your own timetable and photograph when you want to, and you also have better control of your indoor environment.
This past summer and fall, I have been photographing flowers as well as other subjects at home using a portable studio set up. Flower photography is an area of photography that I have been delving more into this past year. The range of colors, shapes and textures of flowers inspires to me to photograph flowers whether it is outside in a botanical garden or inside my own home. I really like the flexibility that using cut flowers or potted flowers provides for photographing in your own space in your home.
The following tips are ones that I used to photograph the flowers here in this blog post. I love being creative, and flower photography is a very creative area of my photography.
The following are my top 10 tips for photographing flowers at home.
Prepare a space to photograph with natural light
The first thing that I would suggest is to find an area of your home that gets a lot of natural light. Using natural light to photograph your flowers is the best way to illuminate your flower subject. It is best to look for an area with a big window or patio doors, as the bigger your source of natural light, the more light there will be illuminate your subject. Also, take in consideration which way the window faces in your home as this will dictate your natural lighting and what time of day would be best to photograph flowers using the direct sunlight from your window or patio doors. Another thing to consider with your source of natural light is how you want to position your subject, camera and self to the natural light source. Be mindful that using the sunlight behind you may give reflections of yourself if using a glass vase, etc. I like to use side lighting for my flower photography at home.
Studio set up in home
My portable studio consists of a small foldable table (40in X 20in x 17.71in which adjust to 3 different heights), assorted backgrounds, LED light, diffuser, and photo props, which I store in a plastic container that I carry out to the area to photograph in my home. If you are lucky enough to have the space to designate a room and make a home studio, that would be exceptional. However, I am not that lucky right now to have a lot of available space, so I found a set up that makes my home studio organized and portable to bring out when I want to photograph at home. Then when I am done, I put everything back in the storage container and place it back in its proper storage area of the house.
Gather flowers as your subject:
If you have a garden with flowers, then simply cut a flower or a group of flowers to photograph, or if you do not have a garden, then you can purchase a bouquet of flowers from a local store. I usually purchase a nice bouquet of flowers and will photograph a single flower from the bouquet, or on some occasions, I do photograph the whole bouquet. I suggest experimenting with the arrangement of flower(s) and see what you prefer to photograph.
Use tripod and shutter release or self-timer
I recommend placing your camera on a sturdy tripod with a ball head to photograph flowers in your home. In addition, I suggest to use a shutter release or self-timer so that your images will be as sharp as possible.
Use LED lighting
With my indoor photography, I have moved away from using a standard flash mounted on or off the camera to using a photo LED light that I can hand hold and move around to find just the right angle for my subject. When doing this, make sure to only use the light to shine on your subject and not the background. The LED light I use is a 42 light with two settings for low and high. The LED light just gives so much more control over the lighting of your flowers, and using my small photo LED light with the natural lighting is all that I need. Also, reflective cardboards with white, black, and silver sides are very useful if using glass vases in your shots. The reflector boards will help eliminate reflections, shadows, and soften the light on your flowers. Sometimes, I may use a hand held 12-inch diffuser to help soften the lighting as well.
Use different backgrounds
As part of my portable set up studio, I have purchased several types of backgrounds with different colors and different textures or patterns that are double sided with two different backgrounds on one sheet that is sized 16.5 X 26 inches. I clip these backgrounds to foam core boards to use as backgrounds. Also, I have discovered these rolls of felt in various colors at Dollar Tree in their craft section, and the felt works really well clipped to the foam core board as backgrounds (and is very inexpensive). Below are images of a sunflower and Gerber daisy using black felt as my background.
Also, the reflector boards can be utilized as your background while photographing your flowers at home. Having a variety of different backgrounds to utilize when photographing flowers will give you many different feels to your flower images.
Use Telephoto or Macro Lens
I would suggest using a macro lens or atelephoto lens using a variety of apertures. Using a wide-open aperture will separate your flower from the background, while using a smaller aperture will give you more detail in your flower. I sometimes may start with an aperture of f/8 and then really wide to f/4 or to the widest that my lens will allow. Also, I tend to use a smaller aperture like f/16 to f/22 more with inside flower photography with my selected background, which all depends on the feel of the image I am trying to create.
A great benefit to using a telephoto zoom lens is that you can zoom in for a tighter image of your flower or zoom out to capture more of the flower subject without moving from your spot. It is important to use manual focus with your lens so that you can the focus on the point where you want the subject to be in focus. If using autofocus, as I sometimes still do, I would suggest using single point autofocus so that you can move the focusing point around to your desired location on your flower subject.
I mainly have been using my Tamron 18-400m f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD Lens for Canon EF to photograph flowers in my home. I do have a macro lens, but I have really have been enjoying using the Tamron 18-400mm as it gives me so much more flexibility when photographing flowers.
Manual focus is strongly suggested for flower photography, especially outdoors, which means you need to set your ISO, aperture and shutter speed on your camera settings. Photographing flowers with a shallow depth of field (DOF) is essential in outdoor photography as you need to create a blurred background which makes the flower stand out. However, I find photographing flowers inside with control over my background choices allows me to be able to use a smaller aperture like f/16 to f/22. I must admit that for all of my indoor flower photography, I do use aperture priority because I always use a tripod and am not worried to much about shutter speed. But if the situation dictated, I would switch to manual camera mode so I could control the shutter speed, ISO and aperture. As I had mentioned previously, I like to shoot in a range of apertures to make sure I capture the image that I was envisioning, and I always shoot a range of apertures for my flower photography outside as well. Since I use a tripod and shutter release, I shoot with the lowest ISO which is either ISO 100 or 200, however, sometimes I may increase my ISO to 800 depending on my natural lighting situation. The below bouquet image was photographed in my home using ISO 800 as I had very limited natural lighting at the time I took this image.
As for the camera, I use my mirrorless camera with my Tamron 18-400mm lens for my flower photography.
Use different compositions and perspectives
When photographing flowers, you want to try to use the rule of thirds, leading lines and fill your frame with your subject. One of my favorite styles of photographing flowers is to use a single flower. I will shoot this flower in various angles and perspectives to give me a unique capture of the flower. However, there are times when I like to photograph bouquets or multiple flowers.
Use various techniques
My most favorite technique is to use a water bottle and spray water on the petals of the flower(s) to recreate dew or rain droplets. I really love this look, but I try not to do this for every photo I take of flowers inside my home. Also, have a variety of vases to use when I want to take photos of flowers in vases. I often will take my close-up photos of the flowers in a vase even if I just have one flower in the vase. In addition, a clip is useful if you want to clip a single flower to photograph instead of using a vase.
Another technique is to create a feel that your flower photo was taken outside. To create this feel, you place another flower in a vase or a potted flower behind your main flower subject to use as your background. Like flower photography outside, you would use a very wide aperture to blur the flower in the background and keep your focus on the front flower as your main subject. A post processing technique that I like to use for my some of my flower images is to add various types of filters to my original flower image to create digital art images. Below are several of my flower images that I have turned into digital art images with the use of filters from the software, Smart Photo Editor. As I have mention above, I really like to be creative, and this program allows my creative juices to flow and to develop some beautiful digital art images.
The best benefit for photographing flowers at home is that you can always find flowers as your subject by purchasing flowers at a local store or garden center or by growing them in your own yard. Plus, photographing flowers inside gives you plenty of opportunities to practice and develop your flower photography skills. That way, when you are outside at a park, botanical garden or in a field of flowers, you can use the skills you have developed from your experience photographing flowers inside your home.