This post is Part 4 of “An Anatomy of a Flower Photo Shoot” and I will discuss “framing and composition”.
First let’s talk about “framing” your subject. In order to “frame” your subject, you must “identify” your subject. When we are photographing flowers, that means you need to decide if you are going to photograph the entire flower or just part of the flower. I believe that in order to learn to “frame” your image, you need to get to know your subject through photographing it from different angles and with different lenses, if possible.
If you photograph the entire flower, “framing” the image may include leaves and other flowers that add to or support the subject. While you are “framing” the subject you want to determine what elements will add to the flower and become part of the subject and what elements will take away from the image creating two or more subjects. For example, sometimes wild or unruly stems or leaves can detract from the overall image so you would want to crop in-camera to properly “frame” the flower image. That may require photographing the flower in portrait orientation instead of landscape orientation.
Note: cropping in-camera is ALWAYS preferable to cropping after the fact and I will discuss more on that subject later in this post.
If you are only going to photograph a portion of the flower, “frame” just the part of the image you want to be the subject, again using different angles (and lenses, if possible) as well as different orientations (portrait/landscape). In most cases, cropping close in the camera means that you are deliberately eliminating leaves, other flowers, and possibly even the stem of the flower.
Once you make a determination on what your subject is and you have a pleasing frame, check your “composition”. I’m not a huge believer in “rules”, like the rule of thirds, or the golden spiral, but I believe that sometimes it is wise to put your flower image off center (left or right) to leave negative space in the image. A good thing to remember is that if the flower is facing left, the negative space should be to the left of the flower and if the flower is facing right, the negative space should be to the right of the flower.
There are no wrong decisions here. Always remember that you are the artist and after all is said and done, you are the one that has to enjoy the image. I believe that if you enjoy your image, others will enjoy it as well.
Let’s look at four images of the same flower below. I shot six different poses of the flower using both landscape and portrait orientations. I also used three different lenses and framed for centered and rule of thirds compositions. Below are my four favorite images fro the shoot with detail on my equipment and lighting.
This image was shot with my Nikon D5500 and my Nikon 70-200mm lens set to f/2.8 under cloud cover. Standing about 4 feet away from the flower, I was able to achieve enough depth of field to get the stamen in focus as well as most of the petals closest to the the lens. It was important to me to be able to show the depth and levels of petals that made up this flower but I also wanted to include the full stem as well as some leaves from another flower that were on the upper left of the flower. Since, I didn’t want there to be two subjects (the leaf in the upper corner and the flower), so I chose a shooting angle that grouped those two visuals (the leaf and the flower) creating one subject.
This image was shot with my Nikon D500 and Nikkor 105mm macro set to f/4 under an umbrella. Again, I wanted to show the depth and and levels of petals that made up this flower but I wanted to bring it front and center to grab the attention of the viewer. I new that using f/4 to blur my background would result in a fairly narrow depth of field; however, because I was using a crop sensor camera, I could stand a farther away from the flower (approximately 18 inches) which increased my depth of field. I wanted the stamen and the petals closest to the camera in focus and I was able to accomplish that at f/4; however, I would have stopped-down my aperture to obtain the level of focus I was looking for, even if that meant my background would have more focus, and therefore more distraction. Distractions can be fixed in Photoshop in a variety of ways; however, depth of field cannot be fixed in Photoshop.
The image to the right was shot under cloud cover with my Nikon D5500 and Nikon 70-200mm lens set to f/2.8 stand about 3.5 feet from the flower. I chose a landscape orientation with a rule of thirds composition. I wanted to show some of the depth and and levels of petals that made up this flower so I tilted* my camera to the right, forcing the flower to face left and thereby creating negative space on the left side of the flower. One of the reasons I like negative space in a flower image is so that I can use it to create a greeting card or postcard for advertising. That negative space is a great place for text!
My final image was another landscape orientation photographed with my Nikon D850 and my Lensbaby Velvet 56 under an umbrella. I was literally right on top of this flower to eliminate the background and small distractions. Tilting* my camera to the left forced the flower to face right. I wanted to capture the view of the flower from the top down as opposed to capturing a view of the middle portion of the flower as I did in the previous images. I wanted the stamen and as many of the top petals as in focus as possible so I choose an aperture of f/8 on the Lensbaby Velvet 56.*
There are definite color variances in the images, some of which are a result of the lens and some were caused by having to use an umbrella to shade the flowers from the sun, giving it an overall different white balance. These images have been corrected for exposure but not perfected for white balance so that I could demonstrate for you what can happen when using different lenses to shoot the same subject under different lighting conditions.
Notice that in images 3 and 4 above, I noted that I photographed the flower while tilting* my camera. Here’s how tilting works. Face the flower straight on with your camera so that the flower has an invisible straight line through its center. If you want the flower to face right, tilt your camera to the left and click the shutter. If you want the flower to face left, tilt your camera to the right and click the shutter. This is an all-important technique that will give you a lot of variety whether you are photographing the flower in portrait or landscape orientation.
In closing, I would like to say a few things about cropping in camera. Obviously, there are times when you just can’t help getting a shot that is wider than you prefer – possibly because your lens won’t get as close as you need it to, or perhaps you have to stand farther away from the flower. But, if you have the equipment that will allow you to frame your flower subject as perfectly as possible in the camera, fill your frame with your subject! When you crop in Lightroom, Adobe Camera Raw or Photoshop, you are deleting valuable pixels.
So, what happens if I need to crop the image for an 8×10 or 16×20, you may ask. Some cameras have a 4×5 crop that can be chosen so that you are shooting with the correct aspect ratio for an 8×10 or 16×20 print. If your camera doesn’t have that option, give yourself a little extra cropping room. If you are shooting a portrait (vertical) orientation, give yourself a little extra room on the top/bottom of the image. If you are shooting landscape (horizontal) orientation, give yourself a little extra room on the left/right of the image. But, here’s another thought … most good print houses offer 16×24 prints and 20×30 prints which are the proper perspective for the 2×3 aspect ratio images that are created by most DSLR cameras. Prints made in the 2×3 aspect ratio are exceptional !!!
I hope you have enjoyed this post and if you have questions, feel free to contact me through this Information Request form.