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5 Tips for Great Flower Macro Photographs

04/22/2014 — 

Spring is sweeping the northern hemisphere at long last. It has been a difficult winter for many areas, with record amounts of snow and temperatures that sometimes rivaled the surface of Mars. It looks like we’re finally moving past that, though, and you know what that means -- flowers! For amateur photographers, it’s time to break out the digital camera and start taking wonderful macro photos of flowers.


What is Macro Photography?

Before we begin talking about how to take great macro photography shots of flowers, it might help to first define what macro photography actually is. Simply put, the “macro” in macro photography means that we’re taking photos of small items that are larger than life. In other words, if you take a macro photograph of a penny, the photo’s print size might be the size of your palm.

When we take macro photographs of flowers, we’re looking to capture the intricate detail of buds and flowers in such a way that the people who see the photo feel like they’re seeing more than they could if they looked at the flower with the naked eye. For example, a great macro photograph of a flower might capture drops of dew, the veins in the petals, or the flower’s tiny imperfections.

How do you take great macro photographs of flowers? Here are five tips for the beginner.

What is Macro Photography

© Beata Moore

1. You’d be surprised by how much detail your iPhone can capture.

Normally when we talk about macro photography, we start talking about DSLRs, lenses, and lighting. We’ll get to that, but before we do, let’s talk about your iPhone. Sometimes you might have your DSLR with you and be ready to take an amazing photo with it, but sometimes you might be out for a morning walk and only have your iPhone when you spot an amazing macro photo opportunity with a flower.

The two keys to taking a great macro photo with an iPhone are lighting and distance. For lighting, your iPhone is probably going to take its best photos with plenty of natural light early in the morning. As for distance, you’re better off getting as close to your subject as you can while still staying in focus. What you should not try to do is to use the zoom function on your iPhone. This will not produce the quality of photo you’re looking for.

You can also always “cheat” when it comes to using your iPhone for macro photography. Manfrotto has several items designed specifically for iPhones that will help you take a better shot of flowers or anything else. In particular, take a look at the LED light that clips to the side of the phone and the detachable lenses.

2. Change your point of view.

Your parents probably taught you to try to sometimes see things from the point of view of other people. You can take their advice and apply it to your flower macro photography. When you’re taking a photo of a flower, you need to get to the flower’s level. Great photos of flowers aren’t shot from standing height; a great photo has you on your knees or on your belly getting as close to that blossom as you possibly can. When you change your point of view to how the flower sees the world, you’ll not only get a chance to see things differently yourself, you’ll also get a chance to share that different point of view with everyone else who sees your flower photo.

Photo - 5 Tips for Great Flower Macro Photographs - Change Your Point of View

© Beata Moore

3. Take several shots of the same flower from different angles.

Have you ever seen a macro photography shot of a flower in which a single part of the flower takes up the entire frame? Don’t be boring with your camera angle; experiment and take the photo several times from several different angles. For example, what does that flower look like when you shoot it from below? From the side? From directly above it? By taking several different photos, you will often end up with an image that you will be much happier with in the end.

Photo - 5 Tips for Great Flower Macro Photographs - Take several shots of the same flower from different angles

@Cinzia Bolognesi

4. Isolate the flower you’re interested in from its background.

A great macro photo of a flower isolates a single flower and blurs out the background. While you can achieve this effect after the fact with photo editing software, you’ll get a much better picture if you isolate the subject when you take it.

To isolate the flower6 you’re shooting, you want to start with a very shallow depth of field. This means that your camera will only focus on the item a few inches in front of it; everything else will be blurry. To achieve a shallow depth of field, you’ll need to switch your camera into aperture priority mode. This mode is usually represented on your camera with an A or an Av. You want a large aperture. Don’t get confused, though -- the smaller the number is, the larger the aperture.

Isolating the flower is also easier if there aren’t other objects nearby it or right behind it. Remember, a shallow depth of field will put into focus everything within a 1 to 2-inch range. That means that if there are objects directly behind the flower you are shooting, those objects will also be in focus. For example, you might find a beautiful daisy growing against a brick wall. If that daisy is right against the brick wall, it’s going to be hard to make the brick wall blur out. Instead, choose a daisy in a meadow. It will be much easier to get the daisy in focus and the rest of the grass and flowers out of focus.

Photo - 5 Tips for Great Flower Macro Photographs - Isolate the flower you’re interested in from its background

@ Photopharm,

5. Use a bigger lens.

Your camera is going to have a maximum aperture level that will limit just how “macro” your macro photography can be. To really get the most out of macro shots of flowers, you’ll want to get a bigger lens. Professional photographers typically use lenses that are in the 100mm to 400mm range for macro photography. Lenses can be expensive, but if you have the budget for it, a bigger lens can be well-worth it.

Photo - 5 Tips for Great Flower Macro Photographs - Use a bigger lens

@ Photopharm,

Summary: Macro Photos of Flowers Are Within Your Reach

Even if you are a relative beginner, you can take great macro photos of flowers. You can turn your backyard, your garden, or your morning walk into a photographical wonderland when you follow the five tips listed above. In no time, you’ll have photos that look as good as what the professionals take.

Do you have your own tips for great flower macro photography? List your ideas in the comments section below.