Tips for Garden & Flower Photography

Light & Flowers

The first image captures the center of the pink lotus flower beautifully lit by soft diffused light.  As opposed to bright sunlight, soft light preserves the individual pastel colors of the flower.  

Side light when it creates light shadows and tonal gradient on the petals defines the shape of the flower making it appear three dimensional as with the second lotus blossom.

Back light coming from behind the subject and passing through petals and other flower parts can be dramatic and reveal details not easily apparent otherwise like the fuzz on the sepals of the lady slipper.  The shadowed background made this detail more apparent.  However, the pink part of the lady slipper was shaded. To improve the image, I used a white card to reflect light into the shadows.

Like all photography patience is required. I searched for a perfect Bird of Paradise flower to photograph but had difficulties finding one that did not fade into the background.  Finally I found what I was looking for, an individual flower that was backlit with the orange color portion of the flower glowing against a dark background. 

The last flower in this series, was lit by the setting sun from behind.  It seemed to glow with a beautiful transition of colors from red to yellow.

Problem Background & Solutions

When the background is extremely distracting, consider selecting an angle of view where it is in shadow like the image above.

With some problem backgrounds I have resorted to using an artificial one behind the subject as with this Himalayan Blue Poppy.  

One way to create such a background is to I select a scene outside, set the camera to a low F-stop for a shallow depth of field and defocus the lens before taking the photo.  Then I print the image, mount it on a stiff background and hold it behind the subject.  Another option is to select an image that you already have in your photo files and use Adobe’s Photoshops blur filter and possibly other adjustments to create a suitable  backdrop.


Before taking a photo decide what attracted you to the subject.  Ask why did it catch your attention? What made it special?. Simplicity is the key to success.  In the case of this orchid, it was the center of the flower that fascinated me so I filled my frame with the most interesting part, the lip and pollinia where the pollen is located.

The commonly discussed rules of composition are guidelines that can be broken if the situation warrants it.  The next flower was centered in the frame, breaking one of the primary rules for good composition, don’t center the subject since it is likely to create a static image..  With the next flower, the center was the key feature  that attracted my attention so I put it in the center of the frame.  The image  almost feels like it is pulsing..  

To emphasize patterns like the petals of this Blue Hyacinth, I selected an area of the flower that was flat.  I took the photo with the face of the lens parallel to that surface so all the petals were equal distant from the lens (surface of the internal sensor).

Artistic Expression

Blue Hyacinth abstract
Blue Hyacinth abstract

For wall displays & interior design, images do not have to represent reality.  The two photos below were created by altering images using an Adobe Photoshop mask plus filters (blur and liquify).  For the second image, I used double exposure with one photo image liquified and placed over the original photo. 

Macro Lenses

Macro lenses are designed for close-up photography and can focus closer than normal lenses of the same focal length.  They are often able to reach 1:1 magnification. These lenses are sharp edge to edge and have low perspective distortion. They come in several focal lengths usually varying from 50 to 200 mm.  The longer the lens, the more working distance you have from the subject helping you to avoid your shadow falling on your flowert. Also due to its narrower angle of view, you are more able to control what background is behind the flower.

Framing – required moderately soft light

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