When photographing flowers, people often make the common mistake of trying to capture the entire flower even when there are distracting or unwanted elements in the frame. In many cases an arboretum or flower show do not allow tripods either…so what is the solution? The simple answer is to get closer! You don’t need to see the entire bloom and foliage to get your point across and macro lenses are especially well suited for this task. The image above of the Gerber Daisy is a great example of this philosophy.
Now, I like to create macro images of flowers that are sharp from front to back. Keeping your subject parallel to the back of the camera definitely helps with this and I did just that in the image above. Not being able to use a tripod poses a few special challenges when hand holding and that is why I always use a flash and in particular the Canon MT 24EX twin lights mounted on my Sigma AF 180mm f/3.5 EX DG HSM APO or now on my Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO macro lens. The Sigma ring flash would also work in these situations and I will test it in the coming months and give a report on it as well. The key to using flash is getting as much natural light on the subject as possible especially when shooting at f/22 so that is why I start out with an ISO of 800.
The image above is a good example of not having to show the entire plant when the situation just doesn’t allow it. You know it is an orchid, what you don’t know is that it was at an orchid show where there were countless people walking around and I’m not able to touch or move the plant to get a better angle and definitely not use a tripod!. I set my camera to ISO 800, f-stop to 32, and my shutter speed to 1/100 sec. so I can hand hold it comfortably. I then simply power my flash unit down or up depending on the bloom. In the orchid image below, I bought one at a local home improvement store and then I was able to add reflectors and a Gistec Flashmate LED video light to further enhance the details and control the lighting. In both images, you don’t really need to see the entire plant to know they are orchids!
The hibiscus image below is from an arboretum that was full of blooming hibiscus but it was very difficult to isolate one bloom without introducing distracting elements so I simply walked through the room looking for one that I could isolate and where the petals and stamen were close to the same plane in order to achieve maximum depth of field. By getting closer, I eliminated all distractions and you still can see that it is a hibiscus.
I hope this first macro tip gives you a few ideas for you to try out next time you are out in the field or in a situation where you can’t control your subject. I will leave you with the image below of a store bought orchid and in tip #2, I will share with you my techniques for controlling your background in any situation you may encounter.
If you are interested in improving your photographic skills consider joining me on one of my workshops or tours. You can find information on that as well as numerous galleries, my own blog, gear reviews, and more at: www.roaminwithroman.com.