How I Photograph Blooms

First off, I am not a pro!  Not even close.  As can be seen by the examples below, I've taken more than my fair share of 'less-than-ideal' pictures.   I don't post them of course - so no one knows but me.  :)

I have never taken a course on photography and my camera equipment is low-end.  Regardless, on average I seem to do OK.  Thinking outside the box, and finding shortcuts (or tricks) have helped me mask my weak skill set.  As an 'average' person, with 'average' equipment (assuming you're the same) what I do should work as well for you.

My equipment - some of the older photos were taken with a Nikon Coolpix 4300 (digital point & shoot).  The newer photos were done with a Canon S5IS (digital point & shoot).  I'd like to have an SLR camera but, truth be told, I'm a little intimidated by them.  I might be wasting my money because I don't know how to use one.

My software - Corel Paintshop X2 which is a low cost Adobe-like photo editor.  To be honest, photo edit software is what saves me.  The majority of my photos are average.  It's the photo edits that make them more presentable.  I recently discovered another product that's even less expensive.  I have no personal experience with it but the price it right.  Search Amazon for Serif PhotoPlus X4 - about $15.

My tips & tricks - a 12-step program.

1.  Shoot when its overcast.  Shade adds a blue (cool) cast to your bloom.  Sun adds a gold (warm) cast & unavoidable shadows.  Overcast is perfect!  If you happen to be one of those poor souls that gets 300 days of sunshine per year (yeah, sucks to be you huh?) then buy a white umbrella.  It will cut out the shadows without adding a color-cast to the bloom.  Granted, the photo needs some work with software, but there are no shadows on the bloom and no color-cast affecting either the bloom or foliage. 

2.  Shoot mid-morning (9ish) if possible.  Too early and I get the blue (cool) cast.  Blooms may not be fully open.  Too late and I get the gold (warm) cast.  Pollen may have ripened and dropped onto the petals.  Here is 'Blue Diana' - same bloom, same day, same camera.  The early shot is too early and the bloom is not fully open.  By 11:30 the bloom is perfect but has the 'warm' coloration.  By evening the bloom is 'cooler', faded, and I've harvested the pollen.  If I had to pick from these 3 choices, I'd go with the center shot and then use software to remove the 'warm' glow.

3.  Deadhead and groom before shooting.  I typically live-head the evening before so that I wake up to a clean garden.  I'm not an early riser so having this chore done already puts me back on schedule.  Grooming consists of making  a bloom look its best... folding down any leaves that are in the sightline, untangling anything that's hung up, warming up and popping out any petals or sepals that still have dimples.

4.  Shoot before hybridizing.  It's a pet peeve of mine but I really hate seeing blooms where the pollen has already been harvested.  And while I don't hate the look of a pollinated pistol, I do find it an unnatural look.

5.  No hands (or feet) in the shot.  There are times when it may seem unavoidable but that's when I need to get creative.  I find another way - ANY other way - or wait for another day and another bloom.

6.  Pay attention to the background.  Look at the entire frame, not just the bloom.  If I can physically remove things from the frame, then I do so.  Hoses and hybridizing hang tags take the focus off the bloom.

7.  Move.  All shots do not need to be taken from a standing position looking down on the bloom.  I move around AND up and down.  Often I will squat for the shot.  I find the best background I can within my frame and then put my bloom in front of it.

8.  Use pots.  I'm never ready for new arrivals, and after being burned by crown rot that arrived on a southern plant (and subsequently spread to other established garden plants), I now pot everything that arrives.  Pots give me a lot of flexibility in photos.  I can move that plant anywhere I want and pick any background that appeals to me!

9.  Zoom.  To get that look of the blurry background (technically called depth of field) I move away from the bloom and use my camera's zoom.  The more distance between the bloom and it's background, the more blur distortion I get.  Play with it.  This works really well with those highly-mobile blooming pots.

10.  Take tons of photos from various angles.  The beauty of digital is that it doesn't cost anything to keep shooting.  When I first started I probably took 20 pictures of one bloom and one photo might be usable.  As I got better I now find I only need 3-4 pictures to get 'the one' that's a keeper.

11.  Get creative.  I have several plants that are packed together in the garden.  To isolate one bloom without getting something else in the background is impossible.  So, I cut the bloom off and wire it onto the scape of one of my unblooming potted plants.  I can now move it to my desired background.  Problem solved!

12.  Learn how to use photo edit software.  This is a subject unto itself.  I have a page dedicated to software edits.  Just hit the back button...