Capturing blooming good wildflower pictures

Scarlet Featherflower shot with a 100mm macro lens, 1/160th sec at f/9.0 ISO 200 with gold reflector bounching light back onto the flower. Pic Mogens Johansen, The West Australian
Photo of Mogens Johansen

With the wave of wildflowers heading south and east through WA here are some tips to help you with what can be challenging conditions for photography.

As our bumper wildflower season moves south the focus changes from the big carpets of flowers to smaller individual plants. That means a few extra challenges for photographers wanting to capture good close-up shots of tiny flowers.

A tripod and a good macro lens are essentials that will allow you to focus in nice and close. 

Think of it like taking a portrait of the flower. As with a portrait picture, a focal length of around 100mm is best. It gives you a bit of space so your camera isn't too close to the flower and the 100mm is a flattering focal length that won’t distort the image.

If you are using a compact point and shoot camera you will need to select the macro setting to get the close-up focus.

Choose a prime specimen and start by selecting your point of view. Some flowers look best from above, others from the side.

Make sure your focal plane is parallel with the point-of-view of the flower so there is no fall-off in the focus area.

For extreme close-ups the point of focus and depth of field are very important.

Depth of field is the distance in front of and behind the subject that is in focus. It's determined by what aperture setting or f-stop you choose.

For example, f/2.8 has a narrow depth of field and will make the background behind the flower appear blurred.

On the other hand, f/16 will have details in the background in focus as well as the flower itself. 

You want just enough depth of field to show the flower in clear focus but narrow enough to blur the background. That's because the flower is the star of the shot, not the background. Take a close look at the background, try to eliminate unsightly and distracting objects, clean evenly lit backgrounds will make the flower stand out more.

Harsh sunlight often casts shadows so try shooting into the light and use a reflector from your camera’s point of view to bounce soft light back onto the flower. Alternatively, use a scrim to shade and reduce the intensity of the harsh sunlight shining on the flower.

Both reflectors and scrims are readily available from camera shops but you can easily make your own.

A home-made reflector made from solid white cardboard can also act as an effective windbreak.


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