This Post is Part 6 of The Anatomy of a Flower Photo Shoot: “Getting to Know You”
Did you ever think about the fact that you have to get to “know” your subject?
No matter how technically correct you are as a photographer, you cannot capture your subject’s best features or personality unless you get to know them.
When I am photographing someone for a head shot, or a family photo, I have a practice of how I get to know them. I engage them in conversation but I’m doing more than listening to them talk. As they answer my questions, I’m watching their mannerisms, gestures they make, if they smile with their eyes and mouth, and whether the left or right facial profile makes them more photogenic.
All these things work together to help me to determine how to start photographing them. You might say that I’m learning how to photograph them by experiencing who they are. Once I’ve made this connection with the client, I can capture the “essence” of who they are in a way that pays tribute to them.
I approach flower photography very much in the same way. I can hear the question in your mind, “so, how is it exactly that you let them do the talking so you can get to know them”. Well, even though flowers don’t speak words, they do speak.
First of all, I’m at an advantage because I can choose which flower is going to be my client. Second, I position myself so that I am eye level with the flower. Sometimes that means I have to get my stool and sit down so I can watch them for a while. I study the flower from a variety of different angles and watch as it sways or bends with the breeze. I also inspect the flower for imperfections. Some imperfections can be hidden as you are photographing and other imperfections need to be corrected in post production, but either way, I’m taking note of what can be done to capture the “essence” of the flower.
Once I’m comfortable with what part of the flower I want to capture, I take a few test shots. I really enjoy using the “live view” screen on my camera to setup my test shot because it helps me to isolate the subject and see the composition in real time. With a few test shots taken, I begin to perfect my composition and capture of the flower subject by using a variety of angles – high, low, tilt left, tilt right.
In addition to photographing the flower at eye level, I often hold my camera over my head pointing down at the flower subject while viewing my composition on the camera’s “live view” screen. I tilt the “live view” screen down so that I can see see the subject and then I compose the shot. Sometimes, I sit on a stool and put my camera underneath a flower subject and using the camera’s live view” screen, I look for interesting compositions on the underside of the flower.
I’ve am blessed to have several lenses that I use for flower photography so when I go out to shoot, I plan on spending a good amount of time with my flower subjects. I usually choose three to five different flowers start photographing with my 105mm macro lens and I will work with anywhere from three to five different flowers. Once I am satisfied that I have the best capture possible with the 105mm lens, I will switch to one of my other lenses. It is a safe bet that I will capture the same flower with several different lenses and camera bodies different before I move on to other flowers that may grab my attention.
I’m sharing my technique with you because as I watch other photographers around me, they may take a shot or two and quickly move on to another subject. If you’ve ever trusted anything I’ve shared, please trust the fact that you cannot capture the best image of anyone or anything by taking a shot or two and running off to capture something else. Stay with your subject until you have a heart-satisfaction that you’ve captured them in a unique and flattering way that will draw in the viewer and melt their heart.