original post 5th July 2018 - updated 15th May 2019
I have been photographing wild flowers for more than seven years now. Through this project, I have developed my own style and learned an awful lot about how best to capture their nature.
I am not simply taking a photograph to document a species, I want to capture how they dance, how they face the light, something of their character I suppose. And since it is wild flower season now, I thought it might be useful to share some of the things I have learned along the way with you.
The hardest thing about photographing wild flowers where I live is the wind. Most of my photos are taken on the south downs, almost directly on the coast, and the breeze is never less than strong up there. Therefore focussing on anything can be partly down to luck and it does mean I discard a fairly significant number of shots before the one that is well focussed is found!
To this end, I often focus manually and would recommend you try this if your camera has a manual focussing setting. Opening up the aperture also helps with having at least some of the frame in focus - I would suggest you use f / 8 or thereabouts to begin with.
5 TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHING WILD FLOWERS
If you are using a phone rather than a camera, download an app with camera settings. I like ProCamera or Slow Shutter but there are plenty of choices!
As always there are no steadfast rules when it comes to photography, experimentation is all part of the process. Just have a go! Here are five simple tips to get you started.
CHASE THE LIGHT
Literally. Wildflowers are always lovely, but a photograph will sing a different song depending on how it is lit. All of these photographs were taken in the last few hours of daylight on sunny days. Sunlight is tricky to work with on such tiny subjects at other times of day, and it is my personal favourite to see them in the soft light close to sunset.
Look at where the light is falling. Try and find a flower highlighted by the sun perhaps, or a patch of grasses that are highlighted as above.
Think also about the part of the frame from which the sunlight enters. If you are pointing your camera towards the sun, you will need to be clever about focussing as you can't look through the camera at the sun any more than you should stare directly at it any other time! Focus on something else at the same distance from the lens then move your camera, or guess... Some you will win and some you will lose!
HEAD TO THE GROUND
Yes just about literally. Because you can only really capture the full dance of shorter flowers with your camera close to the ground.
I like to look at flowers on their level, or even looking slightly up as it captures their quest for the light. It gives a perspective easily missed when walking through a field, of the world beneath our feet.
SEEK THE CHARACTERS
look for the flowers throwing interesting shapes. Those who are entwined, or taller than the rest. And if you find a character, focus on it as an individual.
Observe before you photograph, there will be plenty of interesting frames out there.
USE A FAST SHUTTER SPEED
Especially if it is breezy, flowers dance a lot. To capture them in focus, you will need a faster shutter speed. One gust and they will sway out of focus otherwise.
In fact, now is a time to use at least semi automatic camera settings as the light changes as fast as the flowers move so it is easy to miss the shot. I rarely shoot fully manual for these photographs. I choose to set the shutter speed and let my camera adjust the ISO and aperture.
DON"T FORGET THE BIGGER PICTURE
It is so easily done when the subject is tiny, but zoom out! Show them in their wider setting. Include a little of what is behind them, be it houses or trees or the rolling hills of the South Downs. Context is an important part of building any kind of visual story.