Photography Our guide to better wildflower photography

Wildflowers for wildflower photo guide, shot in Kings Park.  Grebillea shot with 50mm macro 1/200sec at f/4.0, ISO 100 with defuesed fill in flash from the left. Pic Mogens Johansen, The West Australian
Photo of Mogens Johansen

With landscapes around Western Australia springing into bloom, our photography expert shares his top tips for better floral shots.

Wildflower photos can pose a few challenges: the small size of some flowers, plus wind and light are potential issues.

A camera with a good macro zoom lens is a must, but if you own a DSLR or mirrorless system with interchangeable lenses a dedicated macro lens would be desirable so you can get extra close. 

If your camera has a flip-out articulating screen, it will save you getting down on your belly to look through the viewfinder. Handy accessories include a sturdy tripod, a reflector, a scrim and a flash, which will help you create images that really pop.

Once you’ve selected a prime specimen, choose your point of view. Some flowers looks best from the top, others from the side. Take a close look at the background and try to eliminate unsightly and distracting objects — clean, evenly lit backgrounds will make the flower stand out better.

Next, choose your depth of field. This is the distance in front and behind your subject that’s in focus. It’s determined by the f-stop: for example, f/2.8 has a narrow depth of field and will make the background appear totally blurred, whereas f/16 will have detail in the background in focus. 

For most close-up shots, a narrow depth of field will help the flower pop out from the background, whereas a large depth of field is best when shooting a carpet of flowers in their landscape. 

For close-ups, a longer focal length lens (over 50mm) is best. For flowers in the landscape, a wide-angle lens is good but don’t dismiss a small telephoto lens as it has a narrower view that often helps to make the flower carpets look more dense.

I use the aperture priority setting and let the camera choose the shutter speed, but be careful when it’s windy. Even a slight breeze will move the flowers, so a shutter speed above 1/200 sec is desirable.

Lastly, look at how the light is shining on the flower. Harsh sunlight can cast unpleasant shadows, especially during the middle of the day. Try shooting into the light and use a reflector from your camera’s point of view to bounce softer light back onto the flower, or use a scrim to shade and reduce the intensity of light on the flower.

A scrim is translucent material on a frame and reduces the intensity of sunlight to avoid highlight hotspots. Both are available from camera shops, but you can make your own. A homemade reflector made from white cardboard can also act as a windbreak, and you can use your camera bag or tripod to hold it up. 

Look for close-up details as well as wide shots that show the flowers in their environment. Think about composition, too. Remember the rule of thirds: imagine your frame is divided into thirds horizontally and vertically; the four points where these lines cross are spots that naturally draw the viewer’s eye. Many cameras have an option to turn on this grid in the viewfinder.

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