Nature and Wildlife Photography: Flowers -> The Art of Flower Photography
The Art of Flower Photography
All text and photos: © 2010 Juergen Roth. All Rights Reserved.
Winter is often
a time to stay warm inside and follow up on digital files or pursue my passion
for indoor studio flower and macro photography. I usually search the local
groceries or flower shops for suitable photographic objects and look for all
kinds of flowers, because each one has unique characteristics. I regularly
explore orchids, sunflowers, lilies, daisies, and roses with my macro lens in
the pursuit of highlighting their best qualities. Last winter I brought home a
pot of Easter Lilies. I was fascinated by the simple white color of the blossom
with its intriguing deep throat. My photographic vision for the lily had
immediately conjured thoughts of creating abstract macro art and it stood up to
its promise of inspiring beautiful sensual images.
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foremost, I am attracted by the color of my photographic subjects. I try to
build on the automatic emotional associations most people have for certain
colors and use them to my photographic advantage. For example, one connects the
color red with energy, danger, strength, and power, but also with passion,
desire, and love--as often conveyed through red roses. Yellow is the color of
sunshine and is linked with joy, happiness, intellect, and energy. Sunflowers
are the perfect expression of those attributes. Orange combines the energy of
red and the happiness of yellow. On the opposite and complementary sides of the
warm colors are the cool colors like blue and green. Blue is the color of the
sea and sky; hence, it is associated strongly with tranquility and calmness.
Green is the color of nature. I like to think of green as harmony, freshness,
and fertility. White suggests innocence, purity, and virginity and is
considered to be the color of perfection. Black is mysterious, associated with
the unknown and adds elegance to most photographs.
Camera settings: f/5.6, ¼ sec.
the colors in my abstract floral photography, I prefer natural lighting from
behind or the side, so I often set up in front of my dining room window. I like
to use a reflector or a simple white cardboard to direct the natural incoming
window light to overcome and brighten the limited light inside of a flower. Both
lighting techniques produce beautiful, glowing, almost neon effects.
As in landscape
photography, I often use the rule of thirds as a starting point for my
composition. From there, I move my camera and lens back and forth, right and
left, exploring all angles to arrive at my final composition. The process is
almost an instinctive process for me as I focus on capturing something I find
pretty and appealing. The subject is generally in the driver’s seat, guiding me
from one composition to the next. The more deeply I penetrate downward into the
center of a flower, the more abstract and beautiful it becomes.
Camera setting: f/5.6, 1/200 sec.
For this study,
I’ve chosen white and green as my dominating colors. The series of lily
photographs shown here demonstrate my step-by-step approach to flower
photography and floral abstracts. Usually I start out with a straightforward
flower portrait in which I prefer a black or white background to keep the effect
simple and elegant. I try to highlight the flower’s beauty, colors, and
character. I circle around the flower in my quest for striking compositions and
to portray the floral in its best light, unleashing its full splendor. When
exploring different perspectives and angles in my floral portrait compositions,
I like to work with small apertures that allow for sufficient depth-of-field.
distant, less intimate view I slowly begin to zoom in on the flower, exploring
the subject through my viewfinder. I like to compose tighter frames around
floral parts such as the filament, anther, stigma, and ovary while utilizing
petals to frame the photograph. This is the time when I switch from a small
aperture (providing maximum depth-of-field) to a wider lens aperture (for softer
captures with less overall detail).
Camera setting: f/7.1, 1/160 sec.
Happiness Depends on You
Camera setting: f/4, 1/500 sec.
Ideally, a limited depth of field nicely isolates parts of the flower from their
background. A classic floral abstract photograph can be achieved by laying the
focus point on the edge or tip of a petal. However, as shown in the next few
photographs, I focused directly on the stamen and stigma, adjusting the lens
aperture to experiment with depth-of-field and its immediate impact on my
composition. Each of the floral parts is worthwhile exploring and makes
beautiful abstract flower photography. In addition to isolating the main subject
in your image, a shallow depth-of-field also provides softness that keeps harsh
lines from leading the viewer out of the image.
It is always a
good idea to check on your photo subject a day or two later. During my case
study of the Easter Lily, I was rewarded with two sweat drops on the stigma. The
drops added sensuality and a new dimension to the composition.
Camera setting: f/4, 1/640 sec.
Once I commit to a final composition, I review my camera settings and
composition one more time before releasing the shutter. Using the automatic
timer of the camera or a shutter release cable along with your tripod (a must)
will minimize camera shake and optimize image quality.
Abstract Easter Lily Petals
f/3.5, 1/8 sec.
Abstract Forms in Nature
f/3.2, 1/40 sec.
I Do Everything
You Want Me To
f/3.5, 1/15 sec.
Once I exhaust the obvious in my floral photo object, I take my examination a
step further and look for an even more intimate composition deep within the
flower. To do so, I gently force my lens down the floral. The small 58 mm size
of my macro lens allows me to enter unknown territory. Natural backlighting
through our windows often unleashes different patterns and colors within the
flower. Deep down in the center of the flower where stamen, stigma and ovary
combine, I isolate abstract forms. I take advantage of diagonal lines, forms,
and various shapes of color that expose themselves while I’m moving the lens and
camera up and down, side to side.
Camera setting: f/3.5, 1/8 sec.
working in this final stage of exploring a lily in abstract photographic ways, I
fully open the camera aperture. The wide f-stop provides me with a very limited
but desirable depth-of-field. It also enhances the soft feel of the image. In
these last images, I focused primarily on the center of the flower where stamen,
stigma and ovary come together beautifully. By moving the camera lens, I often
adjust and lock the position of the stamen in the composition. I had to be
careful, because slight adjustments may ruin or make the final composition.
my desired image, I moved my lens further around within the flower to find more
abstract compositions. The second to last image shows a very secret view from
the right side into the Easter Lily. It conveys to me a feeling of a forbidden
peek behind a curtain or a closed door. In my last image, I moved the lens to
the far left. By adjusting the lens and extending it further into the flower, it
pushed down the stamen and pulled in the petals, allowing me entrance to capture
the harmonious flow of lines that lead the viewer towards the center of the
flower. This intimate, sensual view eventually became my favorite image of the
Camera setting: f/3.5, 1/8 sec.
Juergen Roth Artist Website
Juergen Roth Photography
Juergen Roth was born and raised near Cologne, Germany. In 1988, he moved to
Berlin West where he, along with other photographs, were showcased in a
local show. Following several visits to New York City, Juergen was honored
with a solo exhibition of New York photographs in Berlin.
Since 2001 he has been living in Brookline, Massachusetts. His work has been published in books, calendars and magazines. Juergen finds inspiration at the nearby Wildlife Sanctuaries, as well as, in
the beautiful landscapes of New Englands' National and State Parks/Forests.
Juergen has always regarded nature as the ultimate inspiration.
"The question is not what you
look at, but what you see." - HENRY D. THOREAU
All text & photos: © 2010 Juergen Roth.
All rights reserved.
If you enjoy creating flower images, here are other articles that may inspire you:
Spring Flower Photography
How to Photograph Flowers: Part 1
How to Photograph Flowers: Part 2 - EQUIPMENT
How to Photograph Flowers: Part 3 -