Photographing Sunflower Fields: 8 Tips to Create Stunning Sunflower Field Images

Photos and Text by Lori A Cash
July 30, 2021

Planning your Photo Outing

Photographing sunflower fields is extremely popular among amateur and professional photographers. Sunflower fields are magical as the beautiful sunflower heads bloom during the summer months. The timing of blooming depends on the region in which you live. Sunflower fields and/or sunflower farms can be found in just about every state across the United States and into southern Canada.

Popularity of Sunflowers

Sunflowers in an agriculture sunflower field taken from a low perspective from the ground on a summer morning in Crittenden County, Arkansas.

The popularity of sunflower fields has grown as the love of the bright yellow sunflowers has become extremely popular. Photographing sunflower fields has become a favorite summer pastime among photographers of all levels and ages as the fields provide a summer backdrop for photo opportunities. Whether it because of a gorgeous sunset over the sunflower field or due to the eye-catching appeal of the tall stature of the flowers, these fields have become a great place for photo shoots. The flowers can be found as a crop in an agriculture field or as an attraction that requires a charge for admission in order to enter the sunflower fields during certain times of the day and season. Since sunflowers are a food source, you will find many vast fields of sunflowers planted among the pattern of agriculture fields of crops such as corn or soybeans.

These beautiful fields of golden flowers provide many photographic opportunities from which to learn new skills and to be very imaginative with capturing these gorgeous flowers.

Here are a few tips to help you take eye popping pictures of sunflower fields.

Planning your Photo Outing

As for all photography shooting outings, planning and researching your subject is important prior to going out in the field and taking pictures. Photographing sunflower fields, especially, requires planning as you must first find a field to photograph. These days sunflower fields are very common as a lot of farms make their sunflower fields available with cost of an admission. Googling for sunflower farms in your area is an easy way to find sunflower fields.

Finding sunflower fields in an agriculture area among farm fields provides you with a lot more flexibility. Driving around the rural areas near you to scope out and to discover fields of sunflowers is a great way to find agriculture sunflower fields near you. With these agriculture sunflower fields you can arrive early in the morning for sunrise or photograph at any time of day which provides more flexibility.

Sunflowers bloom and die quickly, so, finding a field that is perfectly blooming can be delicate and difficult. This is where your research and planning will be very important in order to find a sunflower field with these massive flowers in their peak bloom period.  

Always remember that these agriculture fields of sunflowers are grown to be harvested as a food source and to provide a source of income to the farmers. So, please remember to be respectful of the agriculture sunflower fields when you are photographing them.

Planning your photo outing to a sunflower field is essential whether you are going to an agriculture sunflower field or a sunflower farm where you pay admission. This planning and research will give you the knowledge to go out and create gorgeous photographs.

Agriculture sunflower field on a summer morning in Crittenden County, Arkansas.
Agriculture sunflower field on a summer morning in Crittenden County, Arkansas.

Selecting the Right Time of Day

As with most photography subjects, the best time to photograph sunflower fields is during the early morning or late evening. These times provide the best diffuse lighting for photography. Also, cloudy days are great for up close images of sunflowers in the field. However, cloudy days usually do not provide the best skies to create stunning landscape images of the sunflower fields.

Keeping your weather conditions in mind is also an important tip when selecting the right time of day to photograph the sunflower fields. Morning time usually provide less wind than in the evening hours, and this is a very significant consideration when photographing flowers or plants.

Sunflowers in bloom on a cloudy summer morning in Crittenden County, Arkansas.
Sunflowers against a cloudy sky on a summer morning in Crittenden County, Arkansas.

Using a Variety of Lenses

Consider using your wide-angle lens to make breath taking landscape images of the sunflower fields. When using your wild angle lens make sure to find and photograph dramatic backdrops for your sunflowers. Some of these backdrops would be the colorful skies of a sunrise or sunset, mountains in the background, a farm in the background or cirrus clouds in the skies.

Using a variety of wide-angle to telephoto lenses will provide different looks and feels of your sunflower images. By using a telephoto lens, you can focus more on individual sunflowers in the field. This will give you an assortment of looks and feels of these gigantic yellow flowers.

Another great lens to use when photographing sunflowers is a macro lens. This will allow you to get really close and tight and fill your frame with the sunflower petals.

Plus, by bringing a variety of your lenses, you will be prepared for not only taking photographs of the sunflowers but also for taking photographs of the many pollinators like bees and hummingbirds and of the many birds like goldfinches and red-wing blackbirds that frequent the sunflowers fields.

Red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) sitting on a sunflower in a sunflower field on an early summer morning in Crittenden County, Arkansas.
Red-winged blackbird sitting on a sunflower photographed with a 70-300mm telephote lens. .

Choosing Different Perspectives

Be creative in utilizing a variety of different perspectives of photographing sunflower fields. Go low or go high! Lower your tripod to the ground and take a low perspective of the sunflower field. With using your widest-angle lens, try laying down in the field and shooting up the stalks of the sunflowers from the ground. This perspective creates an impressive feel to how big the sunflowers actually are.

Bring something to increase your height such as a ladder, or increase your height by photographing from inside the back a truck bed. Just be creative in exploring the different perspectives of photographing the sunflower fields. 

In addition, make sure to switch back and forth from taking landscape-oriented photographs to vertical-oriented photographs. Being open to switching orientations while photographing sunflowers will provide another element to your photographs. Vertical images, especially when shooting single sunflowers, will draw more attention in to your sunflower. Try walking around the sunflower fields looking for sunflowers that stand out or are taller than others in order to give yourself more options in perspectives. Focusing on the taller sunflower from a lower angle or using the taller sunflower as the focus point in a sunflower landscape are other options to experiment with.

Sunflower duo close up in the summer evening light in a sunflower field in Crittenden County in Arkansas.
Pair of sunflowers standing tall among the other sunflowers provides a different focal point in the sunflower field.

Changing Depths of Field

Sunflower in a sunflower field up close on a summer evening in Crittenden County, Arkansas.

Shooting at your widest aperture will allow for out of focus backgrounds when you are focusing on a single flower. This will also allow for higher shutter speeds which helps if you are handholding your camera.

Photographing at your smallest aperture such as f/22 or f/32 will provide you with a deep depth of field that will have everything in your scene from front to back sharp and in focus. This is really important when you are photographing sunflower fields as landscapes.

Creating a mixture of images of sweeping sunflower landscapes and close ups of sunflowers will provide you with a range of photographs having various perspectives that will evoke a range of emotions.

Exploring Silhouettes or Backlighting Techniques

A great creative technique for you to try is using different lighting than the usual frontal lighting on the sunflower fields. By making photographs of the sunflowers while shooting into the sun, you can provide many other ways to be creative with your sunflower images. Using the backlighting to take pictures of the sunflower field as a landscape or selecting one sunflower to contrast with the sky at sunrise or sunset are other ways to create striking images of the sunflowers.

Here are a couple quicks tips for creating silhouettes of sunflowers. First is isolating a simple sunflower that you can photograph against a colorful sky while using a wider aperture to keep your shutter faster with the low lighting. Next, having a faster shutter speed will help with compensating for wind and in freezing your subject. In addition, shooting at sunrise will provide less wind and a better situation for photographing silhouettes of sunflowers.

Using backlighting as the sun is setting will offer you chances for a spectacular glow of the sun against your sunflowers. However, an important tip is not to actually have your camera pointing into the sun but, rather, to frame your sunflowers against the sky with the sun just out of the view.

Sunflowers in backlighting on a summer evening in Crittenden County, Arkansas.
Sunflowers close up using backlighting from the late evening sky.

Handholding and Using a Tripod

There are times when using a tripod is essential, and there are times when handholding your camera and lens benefits you in photographing sunflower fields. Experiment with both handholding and with using your tripod. Just remember, if you are handholding in low light situations like at sunrise and/or sunset, you will need to increase your shutter speed to maintain sharpness of your images. Using a wide aperture will allow for faster shutter speeds as will increasing your ISO some, but increasing ISO adds more noise to your images. So just be mindful when adjusting your camera settings in the field.

Sometimes, handholding, can be very useful and needed in order to reach certain angles or to focus on certain sunflowers. When you are out in the field of sunflowers try to be aware of what your situation may call for, and make those adjustments when needed. Just do not get single-minded about whether to use your tripod or to just handhold your camera.

Lori's camera and tripod setup using a L-bracket for verticals and a level bubble to make sure image is straight while photographing sunflower field at sunset.
Lori’s camera and tripod setup using a L-bracket for verticals and a level bubble to make sure image is straight while photographing sunflower field at sunset.

Employing different techniques 

Photography has so many different types of techniques that can be employed when photographing sunflower fields. One technique is using bokeh which softens the blur effect in the out-of-focus parts of your image. Bokeh is the way the lens you use renders the out-of-focus points of light in your images, and what type of bokeh you create in your photograph depends on your lens aberrations and aperture used which will shape the effects of the bokeh.

High Dynamic Range (HDR) is a great technique to use in the contrasting lights of sunrise and sunset. With HDR it is important to have a range of dark and light levels in your photograph. Trying this technique is done by changing the setting in your camera to take multiple shots of the same scene with varying exposure levels in order to create one image in post-processing. Most newer and modern cameras these days have a setting to allow for multiple shots by changing your exposure compensation/AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing). Your AEB images can be post processed using a number of different types of HDR software.

Sometimes turning some of your sunflower field images into black and white photographs adds an even more dramatic flair to your sunflower photograph. The conversion to black and white occurs while post processing your RAW images. By converting your RAW images to black and white you can have control over the deep tones and the rich contrast of this monochrome effect. Successful conversion of your RAW images to black and white depends on how you photograph them out in the field. Your sunflower images need to have high contrast and good textures to make stunning black and white sunflower images.  

Sunflower field image converted to a black and white image during post processing of RAW image using Adobe Photoshop.
Sunflower field image converted to a black and white image during post processing of RAW image using Adobe Photoshop.

Final Thoughts about Photographing Sunflower Fields

Following these tips is a perfect way to make your sunflower photographs dramatic and stunning. Being creative and choosing diverse ways of photographing sunflower fields will provide you great opportunities in capturing the essence of these gorgeous golden flowers. Trying different techniques while photographing sunflower fields is key to producing awesome photographs of sunflowers. Having the knowledge of how to go out and take great sunflower field images is essential in being successful in capturing your stunning images. Photographing sunflower fields is a great way to practice your photography skills and develop new skills.

Good things happen when you just go out and enjoy nature and be creative!

About the Author
Lori A Cash
Lori A Cash

Lori A Cash is an award-winning wildlife and nature conservation photographer who has over thirty years’ experience photographing wildlife and nature. In addition to being a conservation photographer, Lori is a visual storyteller, writer and blogger.  Lori resides in Hampton, Virginia and primarily photographs in the Hampton Roads area. Her conservation efforts expand throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through her conservation storytelling and photography, Lori strives to inspire and educate others about the beauty of the natural world and to advocate for the protection of our environment and wildlife.

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