In my last post, I left you with an image of a flower from my own garden that I was desperately trying to photograph against the beautiful spring sky. I was lying on the ground trying for a good angle when Darrell Gulin’s lesson came to mind. Why struggle out in the field? He often photographs butterflies in his own kitchen and uses printed natural looking backgrounds behind his subjects. Why was I crawling in the grass, struggling to get a good angle? It was my flower so I simply clipped it and brought it inside. I went back outside and took a picture of the beautiful sky. Back inside, I printed it on some cheap 13×19 matte paper, mounted it on some stiff backboard, placed it behind the bloom, and voila! The image at top is very similar as I used a printed natural green background, but done outdoors. My question to you is; could you tell that it was a printed background? It was an actual “real sky” (in the last post) and some “real” foliage, in this image. Does it really matter? How is that different than the manipulation in the field with the bark or the snow? That is a choice for you to ultimately make but now, I could easily have any background I wanted behind the subject and the sky literally was the limit! Below is my low-tech indoor setup that I can use, any day of the year, and have any background I want even if there is a foot of snow outside! Just remember to close the window too.
Here is just a small sample of the backgrounds that I use both inside the house or bring with me in the field. All are about 13×19 inches large but you can make them any size you want. Do you recognize the sky background on the right in the image from my last post?
This indoor setup allows me to totally control the environment from the light to the angle of my subject with a perfect background every time. An added bonus of working indoors is that I have no wind to deal with (put the dog and cat away, and turn off the ceiling fans and AC). I can now use a slower shutter speed to allow more natural light onto the subject, I can work at a more comfortable height, and I can use any background that I feel compliments the flower the best, all in a few minutes! Flowers are now readily available in most areas year round. Your local nursery is a great source. My friends at Williams Nursery have me on speed dial to call me when they get a new shipment in. The images of the Dahlias’ below were at my indoor setup. I used all of my backgrounds during the shoot but I like the way the black background made the Dahlia pop. Yes, I actually used the stainless steel pot lid along with some aluminum foil, and a silver reflector to light them. I did not use the flash at all.
Using pictures of natural backgrounds has allowed me to do macro photography at any time of year and with any type of background I can think of. I can buy my wife flowers (I’m sticking to that story) at any time of year and photograph them no matter what the conditions outside are. Because they are portable, I can just as easily use any of them out in the field, so this allows me to practice the craft I love all year long.