John Harvey Photo

Learn Flower Photography
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The candle that burns twice as bright, burns half as long

I really have no idea why I enjoy taking photos of flowers.  Flowers are one of the most intricate parts of the plant kingdom and their short lifetime ensures both quality and surprise.

In the Studio:

Black and White Photography
I like high key photography - solid white backgrounds and brightly lit subjects.  My first photo course had a open project at the end so I took a series of photos in a standard setup.  I place a stem vase on my white table white a white paper background behind it and strong diffuse side lighting (daylight).  For some of the photos (top right three) I introduced back lighting.

Looking Down TulipDafodilLots Of PedalsDafodil Looking Down
Lots Of Pedals SideGerberaTulip Touching ItselfTulip From Under

I think part of the reason these photos are strong is the lack of background.  With color it is easy to separate a flower from it's background - bright colored plants on muted backgrounds.  Black and white doesn't generally have that luxury.

Don't be Afraid to get Close

Gerbera in Vase
Most times people will figure out what you are referring too.  Flowers can survive suprisingly shallow depth of field but motion blur seems to be hard to use well.

Duotone Flower

In Cultivation:

Flowers occur both in "Gardens" and on farms growing flowers for harvest or bulbs and seeds.

Class 1: Macro
Tulips in detail are beautiful flowers.  Get close.  Use a longer lens (90-105 macro's are perfect but many longer lenses have a macro mode).  The trick is to watch the background.

Hairy MawSingle Bulb Lots Of GreenLots Of Redness

Class 2: Exceptions
The Tulips are planted in rows for cultivation.  Generally these bulbs are dug up each year, separated (so you can sell some of them) and then replanted for the next years cycle.  Sometimes they miss a few (left in the ground) or they otherwise get mixed.  Generally farms will weed these plants out, but not always.

Single Yellow FlowerSingle Yellow In Purple

Class 3: Diagonals in Medium Shots
The combinations of rows and the lumps in the fields allow you to stage rows behind rows or otherwise setup a stage.  This isn't to the point of including background elements - this is mostly a 2D interpretation.

Diagonal RowsDark Tulips Dark Sky

Class 4: Barns in the Background
There are classic shots of old barns with the burst of new life in front.  There aren't a lot of nice old barns any more so finding a good background can be a pain.  Depending on the angle of the rows, you can emphasis the cultivation or the variety or the flowers.

Flamers In RowsRed Flowers Red BarnMany Colors Stretching Out

Class 5: An Ocean of Flowers
Some of these farms are huge - they seem to go on forever.  Using a wide angle or a telephoto, you can capture the immense scale of these operations.
Red Field Dark CloudsPart In The OceanOcean That Never Ends

In The Wild:

Watch those backgrounds
Being "natural" there is a huge variety of backgrounds you can find.  Using the colour of the flower you can seperate the flower from the background:

Fairy Slipper - Calypso bulbosaCommon Red Paintbrush - Castilleja miniata Western Anemone - Anemone occidentalis

Sword FernSmall Purple Flower

Near and Far
One of my favorite composition choices (when it happens) is a sharp example in the foreground and another example blurry in the background.  This can give the viewer another perspective on the flower and it's geometry.

Tiger LilyPair of Yellow FlowersPurple With Pink Behind

Wide Angle Near and Far
On very wide angles (wider than 24mm, 35mm equivalent size), you can take a near far picture with a patch of flowers, showing both an example of a flower and how they grow in a wider sense. 

Tripod is pretty much required - you set your lens to it's closest macro setting, in aperture mode set it to a narrow aperture (like f16) and then move in so the closest plant is out of focus in the frame, but sharp if you use depth of field preview.  I haven't mastered it - my lavender shot is blurry from the long exposure and wind, and my daisies don't have enough depth of field to render the closest plant sharp.
Wide Angle Daiseys

My widest lens is currently a 28mm which doesn't seem wide enough to do this well.

Multiple Exposures
Glowing Ivy
Another tool in the toolbox is multiple exposure trick to give a soft, dream like feeling to the image.  Using a tripod (the camera position has to be 100% locked down), first a photo is taken with sharp focus, and a reasonable aperture (like f8), metered down (under exposed by) a stop or two.  Then (without advancing the film) a few more shots are taken with meter down a stop further, the aperture wide open (f2.8 for instance) and the focus either ahead or behind the initial shot.

The next two shots show a normal photograph (f8, normal metering, only one exposure), and a blurred version (multiple apertures, stepped metering, 4 exposures on one frame)

Speckled Poinsettia StraightSpeckled Poinsettia Glow

It doesn't make the image better - just different.

Dafodil Looking Down
Tags: b&w, flower, shallow depth of field
Gerbera in Vase
Tags: flower
Tulip Touching Itself
Tags: b&w, flower, shallow depth of field
Single Yellow Flower
Tags: flower, shallow depth of field
Wide Angle Daiseys
Tags: flower
Speckled Poinsettia Glow
Tags: flower, soft focus
Tags: flower
Tags: b&w, flower, shallow depth of field
Diagonal Rows
Tags: flowers
Looking Down Tulip
Tags: b&w, flower
Pair of Yellow Flowers
Tags: flower
Part In The Ocean
Tags: farm, flowers
Duotone Flower
Tags: flower
Ocean That Never Ends
Tags: farm, flower
Sword Fern
Species: Polystichum munitum (Western Swordfern)
Tags: fern, shallow depth of field, UBC Botanical Garden
Hairy Maw
Tags: flower, shallow depth of field
Tiger Lily
Species: Lilium columbianum (Columbian lily)
Tags: flower, shallow depth of field
Dark Tulips Dark Sky
Tags: farm, flower
Glowing Ivy
Tags: flower, soft focus
Single Bulb Lots Of Green
Tags: flower, shallow depth of field
Lots Of Pedals Side
Tags: b&w, flower, shallow depth of field
Fairy Slipper - Calypso bulbosa
Species: Calypso bulbosa (Fairy-Slipper Orchid)
Tags: flower, shallow depth of field
Tags: b&w, flower, shallow depth of field
Red Flowers Red Barn
Tags: barn, farm, flower
Tulip From Under
Tags: b&w, flower, shallow depth of field
Western Anemone - Anemone occidentalis
Species: Pulsatilla occidentalis (White Pasqueflower)
Tags: shallow depth of field
Many Colors Stretching Out
Tags: farm, flowers
Lots Of Redness
Tags: flower
Red Field Dark Clouds
Altitude: 6m (19 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: farm, flowers
Purple With Pink Behind
Species: Lupinus polyphyllus (Large-Leaved Lupine)
Altitude: 62m (203 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: flower
Common Red Paintbrush - Castilleja miniata
Species: Castilleja miniata (Giant Red Indian Paintbrush)
Tags: flower, shallow depth of field
Small Purple Flower
Species: Clarkia amoena (farewell to spring)
Altitude: 218m (715 feet)
Location: Go To...
Tags: flower, shallow depth of field
Lots Of Pedals
Tags: b&w, flower, shallow depth of field
Single Yellow In Purple
Tags: flower
Flamers In Rows
Tags: farm, flowers
Speckled Poinsettia Straight
Tags: flower
Tags: flower(29), shallow depth of field(16), b&w(8), farm(7), flowers(5), soft focus(2)
From: John Harvey Photo > Learn Photography > Learn Flower Photography

Great work!!This is a great website and ive learned so many new things..Photography is great !!!!
Thursday, July 19th, 2007 at 10:17:40

Thank you for the really helpful tips! I have a great challenge to come up with good shots for my website, but have no knowledge. I am enjoying learning enormously, and your site is a gem!
Monday, August 20th, 2007 at 00:45:01

hi people, this website's wonderful! i lofe flowers and specially tulips!^^ i love your pictures! congratulations for this work! have a beautifu day! take care bye :D
Friday, August 24th, 2007 at 15:50:49

I am just a pupil in comparison with your work. Great work. Congratulation
Dan Roman
Sunday, February 24th, 2008 at 14:29:15

Thank you for your help; your advice is concise and clear and I have never seen the multiple exposure flowers trick - will try a couple this weekend I think.
Friday, May 16th, 2008 at 05:34:07

great tutor... i've learnt so many things with this tutor..!
Tuesday, June 10th, 2008 at 13:04:23

For me very instructive. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Best regards and keep on doing it. Attila
Saturday, June 28th, 2008 at 01:42:15

You are amazing!!! Thanks for sharing your photos and your info. I love what you've done!
Saturday, September 20th, 2008 at 08:37:26

Absolutely stunning photographs! Keep up the amazing work. I will give your flower photos a plug on my wedding site. Best wishes Helen
Helen Smeaton
Thursday, October 16th, 2008 at 11:04:57

THe pictures are so pretty! I want to be a photographer like you!
Monday, December 1st, 2008 at 22:40:55

I feel in love with your work of art.
Jameley Jumao-as
Thursday, April 9th, 2009 at 00:46:09

great!!! thanks i have much learn from this...
Monday, May 18th, 2009 at 03:33:36

Thank You! this site was very helpful! ~Faith
Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009 at 17:26:40

To capture your experiences; to see so much beauty and be able to create this website is truly a magnificent talent (not so much the website). May you never stop doing what you love because with the care that you take, this must truly be your passion.
Friday, July 3rd, 2009 at 11:46:05

Dear, I am a newbie, searching for tips and tricks as well as tutorials in the web. I have to admit that i have never seen such a wealth of stellar advices absolutely free of cost (even in some so called quality books you cant find this). Cheers, i would like to see some advice on equipment as well so that i can anchor my choice. i hope that i can follow your advice blind fold.
Thursday, August 20th, 2009 at 02:11:56

Whoa, those are such cool photos! That's a ton of tulips. Where did you find such a cool place for photographing tulips?!
Monday, November 16th, 2009 at 09:32:03

Superb!! what photos.. gr8 work..
Saturday, December 5th, 2009 at 01:16:12

I appreciate class #3 about diagonals - sometimes I feel like I need to change the angle, straight just wont do it, but I could find the right alternative.
Paul Swift
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 at 11:21:21

Good stuff, man. I'm 15 and I've been searching for tutorials on the internet because i REALLY want to learn photography. I've really found your page helpful. The pictures for barns in the background were amazing!
Mehar Bano
Monday, January 25th, 2010 at 12:55:57

Thank you, this information is great. I'm just beginning to get into photography as I'm only a student, and it's always nice to have some good starting pointers. : )
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 at 04:01:47

The last example was just marvelous its shows how important exposure & how well it can completely change your image..amazing illustration and great tutorial..thanks
Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 at 04:41:13

I feel in love with your work of art
Thursday, June 24th, 2010 at 23:17:58

Nice points to understand photography
Tuesday, March 8th, 2011 at 23:04:27

Thanks for sharing this valuable information
Saturday, March 26th, 2011 at 05:19:26

John you have a good eye, I would like to share your stuff with my photography students, with your permission. Bill
Friday, April 15th, 2011 at 21:32:46

Great Pictures and helpful Info. Thanks.
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011 at 02:37:00

added to my bookmark, awesome guides with good examples. i'm happy to buy u a mug of beer if u had a paypal acc.
Saturday, June 11th, 2011 at 19:29:13

This is really great! We're doing this at Mercer Arboretum with some sped high school kids.
Monday, October 29th, 2012 at 11:27:54

Excellent article. Now only it is understood that photography is an art, otherwise we used to just admire the pictures wondering how it might have been done.

Excellent work dear, pls keep posting. It inspires us to learn more and more from you.

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 at 01:53:34

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