A Flower Photography Guide for Beginnners. v1.1

This is just a quick guide to taking flower photographs.

Sharpness considerations
1. Use a tripod
2. Use aperture priority and select a small aperture (large f-value) for better depth of field.
3.Try to shoot when the wind is not too strong. Preferably no wind at all.

4. Focusing. You may need to manually focus though autofocusing is possible. Focus about 0.5-1.0 cm in front of the most important part of the picture.

It is difficult for a person to give comments on an unsharp flower picture because there could be many reasons why the picture is not sharp. The best advice I can give you is to follow all 4 guidelines listed above and you are guaranteed a sharp flower picture. I can't guarantee good flower pictures because I'm still figuring that one out ;)

The first, most basic piece of advice is: USE A TRIPOD. A tripod is essential as flower photography shutter speeds are generally slow. Also, if you are manually focusing, then moving the camera a bit will cause the focus point to change.

For flower photographs, you generally want all parts of the flower to be sharp and that usually means a small aperture to maximise depth of field. In Coolpix terms, small aperture is f/8-f/10.6 and in SLR terms, f/16-f/22.

Of course, there may be times where you would like to narrow down the depth of field in order to emphasise a particular aspect of a flower: feel free to experiment - film is either cheap or free (digital) so you can take several and see which you like.

I took this shot with a smaller and larger aperture. I liked this one with less depth of field, but opinions vary ;) Nikon F70 Sigma 105EX


As for wind, nothing much you can do about it: you need a lot of patience. You can try to do some impressionistic shots of flowers swaying in the wind I suppose :)

Regarding the focusing 0.5-1.0 cm in front of the most important part of the picture, this is just a preference. I like what comes before the most important part to be sharp so that it can 'lead' me into the picture. An alternative rule of thumb is to just focus on the part of the flower that is nearest to the camera and assume that there is sufficient depth of field to keep the whole flower sharp - for non-macro shots, this should be ok.

Exposure considerations

5. When photographing extremely bright or dark flowers, it is possible that the exposure will be off. Simply take a photo at the recommended setting, then check your LCD/histogram and adjust the exposure by adding or subtracting 1 stop.

6. When photographing bright and dark flowers together, I am not sure whether a digicam has sufficient range to capture both properly.


Conventional wisdom says to add exposure compensation (eg: +1.0 EV) if photographing a light coloured flower. However, digicams are succeptible to blown out highlights, so always check the LCD viewfinder/histogram. In any event, I am glad to say that I haven't seen an incorrectly exposed flower shot on clubsnap for a very long time, indicating that exposure is not an issue. Based on my limited experience with a Coolpix, I think the exposure is not that much of a problem in generally - incorrect exposures usually remain in the 'correctable by photoshop' range. As for the light and dark flowers problem, I guess you have to underexpose and use photoshop to brighten the dark flowers.


Aesthetic considerations.

5. Make sure the background is not distracting.
6. Make sure the light is not too contrasty unless effect is deliberate.
7. Decide on whether you are shooting a single flower, a bunch of flowers, or the whole plant and compose accordingly. Alternatively, shoot and crop in photoshop. But photoshop cannot alter the choice of camera angle.


A distracting background is a major problem with flower photographs. To assess the background, ask whether the shot will look better if you simply draped a black cloth behind the flower. If the answer is 'Yes', it means that your background is not 'adding value' to the photograph. Personally, I think natural surrounding have the potential to add value to any flower photograph. Otherwise you might as well photograph cut flowers in a studio setup and get maximum sharpness.


Using a larger aperture to cut down the depth of field is not really a solution in most cases as distracting background elements, even if blurred, can still appear distracting. For example, a white plastic chair will always look out of place, no matter how blur it is.

Easy solutions to the distracting background problem are:

(1) Zoom in on the flower and take a macro shot of the flower.

(2) Use a piece of black cloth as a background

Ok, who put that plastic chair in the photo? Obviously, moving yourself to the left will enable you to compose to exclude the chair.

Coolpix 995



The next thing is contrasty light. Simply put: if the sun is shining on the flower, the pic is generally going to be ugly (though' not in all cases). On the other hand, if the light is overly diffuse, you may lose some dimensionality in the flower. Some directionality in the light may be useful for 'modelling'. Fortunately, morning/late afternoon 'sun in clouds' is great. Related to this is to beware of any 'hotspots' in the photograph.

Always watch out for hotspots

Nikon F70 Sigma 105EX



Finally, we come to what you're actually trying to photograph. The photographer really has to decide what he's shooting. Are you shooting the whole plant, a bunch (or branch) of flowers, or just a single flower. If you're shooting a single flower, make sure that the single flower grabs the attention and is not crowded out by other parts of the plant. If you're shooting a bunch of flowers, make sure they're not chopped off and in focus.

Beyond these general compositional tips, there are really no hard and fast rules about composing flower photographs (and even if there were, rules are meant to be broken).


Single flower. Coolpix 995


A bunch of flowers. Nikon F70, Sigma 105EX


A field of flowers. Nikon F70, Sigma 105EX