Flowers have been a popular subject of art and photography for centuries. Their vibrant colors, delicate petals, and transient nature make them visually compelling. For professional photographers, flowers can be an ideal subject for conceptual portraiture, artistic still life images, and emotive event or wedding photos. With some knowledge of floral design principles, tips for working with fresh flowers, and an eye for unique compositions, pro photographers can take their flower photography to the next level.
Selecting Flowers for Photo Shoots
Choosing the right flowers is the first step in planning a successful flower photo shoot. Here are some tips for selecting flowers:
- Focus on what’s in season – Seasonal blooms available locally will be freshest and often most affordable. Research what’s blooming each month in your area and plan accordingly.
- Consider flower meanings – Certain flowers have traditional meanings associated with them (like red roses for love or lilies for grief). Choose flowers that help reinforce the theme or emotions of your shoot.
- Mix textures and forms – Combine flowers of different shapes, sizes, and textures for visual interest. Pair wispy greenery with round full blooms, or mix spiky protea with velvety roses.
- Limit variety – Stick to 2-3 flower varieties in each arrangement for a cohesive look. Too many disparate flowers can look messy and distracting.
- Choose unopened buds – Incorporate buds on the verge of blooming along with fully open flowers for a progressive feel. Buds last longer too.
- Utilize foliage and fillers – Surround florals with attractive leaves, tendrils, and filler buds for added depth and framing.
Working with Fresh Flowers and Plants
To keep flowers and plants looking their best during a shoot, follow these freshness techniques:
- Hydrate thoroughly – Submerge flower stems in lukewarm water upon arrival from the florist and let them fully rehydrate. Recut stems by 1-2 inches.
- Pick a cool spot – Keep flowers chilled in a cooler or air-conditioned space until right before shooting. Avoid direct sunlight which speeds wilting.
- Use plant shine – Mist leaves and petals with floral shine to minimize wilting and add luminosity. Avoid shiny surfaces which can look overly artificial.
- Spritz often – Use a spray bottle to give flowers a boost of moisture during the shoot, refreshing droopy stems as needed.
- Rotate bouquets – Have multiple versions of each arrangement and swap them out as blooms start to tire.
- Hide flaws – Carefully prune and position to hide blemished or dying areas. Show only the freshest faces of the flowers to camera.
Composition and Styling Approaches
The composition and styling of the flowers will dramatically impact the look, feel, and message of your images. Consider these tips for creating stand-out shots:
Shoot Low and Wide
- Shooting up at flowers against a blurred background isolates them in an abstract, artful way.
- Get super close to fill the frame with just bits of the flowers for intriguing macro abstracts.
- Choose a very wide aperture (low f-stop) to keep just a portion of the flowers in focus.
Play with Lighting
- Backlighting flowers creates rim lighting and a romantic halo effect.
- Side lighting adds depth, accentuating the texture of petals and leaves.
- Reflected window light is diffused and flattering for traditional floral beauty shots.
- Dark moody backgrounds make flowers pop in contrast.
Frame with Foreground
- Frame flowers with elements in the foreground like vines, branches, lace, or string.
- Shoot through translucent materials like mesh screens, sheer fabric, glass or beads.
- Compose to incorporate negative space around and within flower arrangements.
Select Color Palettes
- Stick to a tight color palette for a strong cohesive look.
- Combine analogous colors for rich harmony, like oranges with yellows.
- Contrasting colors like purples and yellows create vibrancy and visual tension.
- Monochromatic palettes with shades of a single color have an elegant, soothing appeal.
- Neutral flowers like whites, ivories, and creams project refined sophistication.
Incorporate Texture and Shape
- Introduce weathered, rustic textures with wood, burlap, and galvanized metal props.
- Combine flowers of varied shapes – spiky, round, wispy – for multidimensionality.
- Backlighting brings out the inherent texture of flower petals and leaves.
- Accent with props that mimic floral textures like feathers, lace, or fringe.
Style for Emotion
- A lush, overflowing bouquet conveys abundance and celebration.
- A single dramatic bloom projects sensuality and luxury.
- Delicate wispy florals capture ethereal, romantic feels.
- Decaying, wilting flowers evoke darker emotions like grief or loss.
Post-Processing Flower Photos
Raw camera files will need some finesse to perfect the lighting, color, and details. Here are some post-processing tips for flower images:
- Boost contrast – A subtle contrast increase enhances depth and drama.
- Bump up vibrance – Vibrance intensifies color without looking oversaturated.
- Add vignette – A slight vignette focuses attention on the floral subject.
- Brighten selectively – Use a brush to selectively brighten just the flowers, not the background.
- Increase texture – Try multisharpening or detail enhancer to accentuate flower and foliage textures.
- Refine edges – Careful masking and layering preserves sharp edges of flower petals and leaves.
- Remove distractions – Clone out any distracting background elements that compete with the main floral subject.
- Enhance bokeh – Use blur gallery to intensify and enhance the quality of background bokeh.
- Mimic film look – Add film grain or light leaks to create an ethereal, romantic analog vibe.
Conceptual and Themed Florals
Conceptual flower shoots pair blooms with props, backgrounds, models and styling that support a specific narrative or idea. Some concepts to inspire creative shoots:
- Surround a bridal bouquet with tulle, pearls, lace and rhinestones for an elegant wedding style.
- Style flowers wrapped in ribbon or twine for a rustic chic wedding.
- Frame bouquet with rings, jewelry or other bridal accessories.
- Veil a dramatic bouquet with sheer tulle.
- Adorn models in floral crowns, garlands, corsages, or other wearable blooms.
- Fill clear umbrellas or flower pots with water and add cut stems for whimsical headpieces.
Floral Still Life
- Style flowers with books, cut fruit, candles or antique objects for an editorial still life composition.
- Create colorful patterns by arranging different flower varieties in organized rows or shapes.
Flowers as Headdresses
- Style extravagant floral headdresses incorporating exotic blooms and feathers.
- Surround models’ faces with colorful flowers, obscuring part of their visage for a mystical mood.
Decay and Impermanence
- Embrace the transient life cycle by photographing flowers past their peak, with wilting or dying petals.
- Couple decaying blooms with objects referencing time passing like melting candles or hourglasses.
- Isolate sections of flowers for evocative abstract images emphasizing color, shape and texture.
- Embrace blur by shooting creamy bokeh backgrounds behind flower close-ups.
- Light flowers dramatically against black or midnight blue backgrounds for brooding, mysterious appeal.
- Incorporate roses, thorns, candelabras, ravens or lace veils for a gothic feel.
Promoting Your Flower Photography
Here are some tips for effectively promoting your pro-level flower photography:
- Print and frame select photos – Hang in your studio to showcase your work for clients.
- Build social media presence – Share fresh flower images consistently on Instagram and Facebook to attract potential clients.
- Pitch bridal magazines and blogs – Many regularly feature styled wedding floral inspiration shoots.
- Enter photo contests – Competitions bring visibility along with the possibility of prizes and accolades.
- Open a shop – Print and frame your most marketable images to sell as wall art.
- License for commercial use – Stock sites like Getty Images provide passive income from image licensing.
- Teach workshops – Offer floral photography workshops to share your expertise while marketing your skills.
- Publish a book – Curate your best flower images into a quality printed book as a portfolio piece.
- Exhibit in shows – Apply to exhibit your framed photos in local art and photography shows.
Say It With Flowers: Creative Prompts for Florals
Here are some creative concepts to inspire one-of-a-kind floral images that make a memorable statement:
- Capture the ephemeral beauty of flowers floating in water. Photograph blooms submerged in glass vases or floating in natural streams and ponds.
- Juxtapose fragile florals with harsh urban landscapes. Position a delicate rose within a crumbling brick wall or peeling painted backdrop.
- Create colorful “scatter art” by tossing flower petals in the air and freezing their chaotic movement. Work outdoors on a calm day or indoors against a neutral backdrop.
- Embrace imperfection. Capture aging flowers with wilting or torn petals in unique compositions that highlight their flawed but organic beauty.
- Shoot extreme close-ups of dewy flower parts. Focus tightly on beads of water on petals, the powdery interior of an orange lily, or a bumblebee collecting pollen.
- Photograph flowers emerging from unexpected places like cracks in pavement, old trunks and walls, discarded tires, or derelict furniture.
- Use optical tricks like reflections to create doubled or kaleidoscopic floral compositions. Shoot blooms in mirrors, glass buildings, or puddles.
- Make flowers glow by backlighting transparent petals. Position flashes or windows behind translucent blossoms to imbue an otherworldly glow.
- Freeze floral movement artistically. Use rear curtain flash sync and slow shutter speeds to convey motion in a painterly, impressionistic style.
Let your imagination run wild as you conceptualize unique ways to photograph flowers that capture emotions, tell stories, and create ephemeral art. Master lighting techniques combined with thoughtful compositions and styling to take your images from standard flower shots to frames worthy of hanging in galleries.
Experiment with unconventional angles, palettes, and contexts until you discover your own distinctive floral style. The possibilities for using flowers artistically are truly endless.
Frequently Asked Questions About Pro Flower Photography
Floral photography appeals to pros and amateurs alike. But there are some common questions that come up when seeking to capture brilliant botanical images:
What camera and lens settings work best for flower photography?
Use low ISO settings (ISO 100-400) for maximum image clarity. Choose wide apertures (f/2.8-f/4) to blur backgrounds and keep focal flowers sharp. Macro lenses allow close focusing on details. And use a tripod to steady your camera while employing slow shutter speeds and low ISOs.
How can I get the most dynamic flower colors?
Photograph in bright shade on overcast days or use a flash to evenly illuminate colors. Shooting early morning or late afternoon light is ideal. Adjust white balance to optimize for cool or warm tones. And boost saturation and vibrance subtly in post-processing for added punch.
What’s the best way to arrange flowers for photos?
Use odd numbers of flowers in each grouping and vary heights, textures, and sizes for depth. Angle blooms towards the camera and hide unattractive or damaged parts. Keep stems long and trim at sharp angles to aid water intake. Use floral foam, florist wire and transparent tape to assemble secure sculptural arrangements.
How do I prevent wilting during flower photo shoots?
Keep flowers chilled in water until right before shooting. Recut stems and submerge in warm water for a few hours to rehydrate. Mist blooms with water before and during shoots. Have extra bouquets on hand to swap out wilted flowers. Work quickly and remove any spent flowers promptly to prevent decaying the fresh blooms.
What backgrounds work well with flower photography?
Solid, neutral colored backdrops like white, gray and black put all focus on the flowers. Subtle texture like weathered wood, linen, or concrete complement floral subjects. Fabric backdrops withrseemless, non-distracting patterns also work well. Shoot wide open to blur the background into dreamy bokeh. Or leave the background out of focus entirely.
How can I take creative flower portraits?
Shoot from the flowers’ perspective at their level for an immersive feel. Frame the floral subject in interesting vignettes using fabrics, foliage or architectural elements. Incorporate conceptual props that relate to themes like seasons, emotions, or events. Create multi-dimensional bouquets to photograph from all angles. And play with lighting to add drama or moody vibes.
What techniques work for shooting flowers outdoors?
Early morning or late afternoon light is ideal. Cloudy or shaded areas create even illumination. Use strobes or reflectors to fill in shadows. Choose colorful locations that complement or contrast the florals’ hues. Avoid windy conditions that can blow flowers around. And bring plenty of water to keep arrangements hydrated throughout the shoot.
How do I get those trendy blurred floral backgrounds?
Use lenses with very wide maximum apertures like f/1.2-f/2 to create shallow depth of field. Focus precisely on the key floral elements you want sharp. Increase the physical distance between subject and background. And play with focal length – longer telephoto lenses have inherently shallower depth of field.
What are some tips for photographing flowers in the studio?
Take advantage of your ability to fully control the lighting and background. Use flash or constant lighting to evenly illuminate the flowers. Build a DIY lightbox for diffusion. Gather a selection of seamless backdrops or hang papers. Style flowers at different heights using boxes, pedestals and platforms for variation. And shoot tethered so you can review your results on a big screen immediately.
Floral photography allows ample opportunity to experiment with colors, lighting, and concepts. Follow basic photography fundamentals while exercising your creativity, and your images are sure to blossom.
Capturing the ephemeral beauty of flowers presents endless creative possibilities for photographers. With a selection of fresh, seasonal blooms and some sunshine or studio lighting, pro photographers can produce evocative floral portraits, elaborate botanical arrangements, and conceptual flower art.
Remember to seek out interesting perspectives when composing shots. Follow principles of floral design for visually pleasing arrangements. Harness natural light at its best early morning and late afternoon. Or sculpt the light precisely in-studio with flashes and modifiers for dramatic illumination. Apply classic close-up and macro techniques to highlight intricate floral details. And choose props, backdrops, and post-processing style to further the conceptual themes of your images.
The fleeting nature of flowers means each shoot provides a chance to create something novel that can never again be replicated. Continue nurturing your creative vision, technical expertise, and floral styling skills to cultivate a unique, emotionally resonant floral portfolio. Whether you shoot for clients or purely for creative passion, photographing flowers leverages all the skills developed across a professional photography career while producing timeless, transportive artwork. So grab your camera, source some vibrant buds, and let inspiration bloom.