Friday, May 7, 2010
How to Shoot Flowers
I will take pictures on May 20th for the Tampa Bay Orchid Society. While I mostly shoot events, I decided to take the challenge and learn how to shoot flowers. Here are some shots I posted on my Flickr before I decided to cover the event. All images were taken using available light. The first 15 pictures were taken with a normal lens and the last 16 and 17 were taken with a 17-50 mm Tamron 2.8, and the rest with a 50 mm Quantaray 2.8. I borrowed the Quantaray lens from a friend and I love it. In the next couple of days, I hope to post more flower images and hopefully better ones.
Based on Jim Tear’s advice, here is what I plan to do on May 20th to cover the event that starts at 6:00 p.m.:
1. Arrive at 5:30 p.m.
2. Reserve an end of the bloom table for use as my mini studio
3. Tape a black velvet backdrop to the wall with masking tape with the middle about eye level or higher. Mine is 34x41". Bigger would be more efficient
4. Place an 8 inch posing block on the bloom table. Mine is 8x12x20". This way I can turn it 3 ways to place the flower I’m shooting near eye level.
4a. Be careful. Many orchids are top heavy and tip over easily
4b. Keep flowers about 2 feet from the backdrop to ensure that the backdrop will be solid black
5. Place the daylight balanced hot light at the same level as the flower and move it in close to eliminate shadows and to reduce the exposure needed. Someone in the orchid society brings in the lamp so everyone can see the true colors of the flowers when they show each plant to the members and talk about it.
5a. Do a custom white balance and also shoot a white sheet of paper for white balance in Lightroom
6. Shoot all the larger flowers. Jim Tear uses a Canon 24-105 mm f/4 is lens. Flowers 4" or larger will fill the frame with his full frame 13 mp canon 5d.
7. Shoot all the smaller flowers with my sigma 150 mm macro lens.
8. Move the black velvet to a wall behind the hanging plants.
9. Shoot all the hanging plants.
10. Shoot the 2 bloom winners
11. Finish & and leave by 9:30
Instead of using the hot light, you could use a studio flash with a softbox. One medium or large box is sufficient if placed 1-3 feet away to eliminate shadows. Or you could use a speedlight with a flash diffuser. It might be necessary to turn down the speedlight exposure and to angle down the flash head. Using the equipment he uses, Jim Tear can carry everything himself in 1 trip: camera around his neck, camera bag with lenses and spare batteries and spare cards, cloth shopping bag with the backdrop, tape, speedlight, and posing block. According to Jim Tear, 1 photographer should do all the shooting. The 2nd photographer moves the orchids in and out of the shooting position; turn the plant so the best flower faces the camera; look carefully to avoid using a fading flower with brown spots. The photographers can switch roles but it's best to have 1 shooter & 1 orchid wrangler for several shots.
Here is how Jim Tear shoots these events:
- I shoot with the camera horizontally for all shots. It’s easier to hold the camera this way.
- I process all images in Lightroom
- I crop to a vertical frame in Lightroom if necessary. With 13 mp I have enough pixels to throw away for the results needed for this shoot.
- I often use ISO 3200 but 1600 or 800 would be better
- I use aperture around f/14 but f/22 would be better
- I use shutter around 1/80 sec
- Check histogram to be sure highlights are not blown out--especially for white flowers
- I shoot hand held for speed and convenience but using a tripod would be better
- I use a full frame 13 mp canon 5d. It’s rather low noise at high ISO.
- For large flowers (>= 4 inches across) I use a canon 24-105 mm f/4 is lens.
- For small flowers I use a sigma 150 mm f/2.8 macro lens
- Make sure the flower is not moving before shooting it
- For each plant shoot the label as well as the flower--preferably just before the flower. color balance and exposure is not critical for the label as long as it is legible
- Shoot 1 flower straight on filling the frame but not cropping any part of the flower
- It is a documentary shot--not an art shot--keep it simple smarty
- In addition, shoot a flower cluster, if you like
For more tips, see the American Orchid Society's website.
Common mistakes when shooting flower quality awards
More helpful hints from AOS
He also shoots the meeting. The photographer should try to get a good shot of each person who stands to give a committee report, take pictures of the president, the education speaker, the main speaker, the bloom table speakers. It is very important to shoot the members who won the bloom table awards. There are two winners: the main winner & the novice winner. For all of these people pix, he uses his full frame 13 mp Canon 5D with a 70-200 mm f/4 lens. He uses a Canon speedlight with a flash diffuser. Because the ceiling is too high to bounce, he points it horizontally. ISO 3200 is okay for the quality needed, Jim Tear said.
How the images are used:
-in the monthly society newsletter: they use small pix of the orchids
-on the web site: they use both people pix and flower pix
-for slideshows: they use both people pix and flower pix
- he delivers 450x450 pixels jpegs via his website.
See Jim Tear’s images from the Tampa Bay Orchid Society's meetings. See the gallery of the most beautiful orchids in Tampa Bay.