Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shooting flower show beauties

Selective focus makes this orchid pop.

Recently I attended a flower show dedicated to orchids. The fellow I was with is an orchid enthusiast. On arrival he immediately set about trying to capture images of prize winning orchids. Watching him made me wince. He made shooting pictures of flowers look incredibly difficult. It isn't.

Most of today's digital point-and-shoots have a macro or flower setting. Many will shift to these settings automatically based on the distance at which the lens is focused. What could be easier?

My friend would choose a flower and then, using his motorized zoom, he'd try to frame his image. The zoom was jumpy. A touch of the control and the flowers exploded across his viewfinder: too large. Another touch, and the flowers receded into the distance: too small. He soon put his camera in his pocket.

The strong diagonals help this shot.
Augghhh! They are called point-and-shoot cameras for a reason. Our amateur photographer should have practised KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). He should have simply picked a focal length and set to work on the real problem at hand: capturing some nice shots of orchids.

I have said it before but I'm going to say it again. The most important book for you to read before setting off to shoot pictures is the instruction book that came with your camera. I doubt that my friend has ever sat down with that oh-so-important book and played with his camera. If he had, he would not have frustrated himself zooming the lens in and out.

So, how should he have approached the problem?

  • First, pick a flower. Hey, this is a flower show. What could be easier.
  • With the lens set to a 50mm equivalent setting, frame a shot.
  • Watch the background. You cannot move the flower, so move the camera.
  • If there is no way to eliminate all distractions, consider using a different focal length and trying again. Longer lens settings will minimize background clutter. As the lens moves into telephoto range, watch the focus. Make sure the camera is still able to focus sharply on the subject.
  • Watch the light. If there is clean but diffuse sunlight pouring in a window, try and take advantage of this in order to keep the flower colours clean and vibrant.

If all of the above fails, choose another flower. Hey, it's a flower show. You have lots of choices. (Keep an eye open for all picture possibilities. The shot below shows an orchid inside a protective, stiff plastic container.)

The reflections add extra colour and interest to this image.

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