10 Tips on Photographing Snowdrops

Macro photo of Snowdrop white flowers by Edwin Brosens

© 2012 Edwin Brosens. All rights reserved.

Sony Alpha 700, 90 /2.8 Macro + Flash, F/10 @ 1/10 sec.

The white Snowdrop flower, Galanthus (from Greek origin meaning “milk flower”) is a bulb which blooms in the month of March in the Northern Hemisphere. Other species of the same flower bloom in early spring or late fall. It is native to many countries in Europe. Depending on the species, they can grow from 7-30 cm. (3-11 inches) tall.


Photographing Snowdrops or Other White Flowers in a Studio Setting

Making the Background:

If you are planning on photographing in your studio, a great choice of backgrounds for white flowers like the Snowdrop is a high quality black paper, so the details of the white petals can have a strong presence. Standard black paper can certainly be used, but you will find that it has less color quality.

Cut the paper into 3 sections that are approximately 50 x 50 cm (20 x 20 inches). One section will be used as background, one as the bottom and the last for the side of your studio.

Studio Setup:

To avoid the details of the paper appearing in the image, set the flower about 20 cm (8 inches) in front of the background. This also helps to keep the background out of the depth of field area, which can give the black paper a grey appearance. A complete black background will create the illusion of the flower popping out of the image.

Macro photo of Snowdrop white flower by Edwin Brosens

© 2012 Edwin Brosens. All rights reserved.

Golden Glow on a Snowdrop
Sony Alpha 33, 90 /2.8 Macro + Flash, F/14 @ 1 sec.


Equipment:

Tripod:

In order to get tack sharp images, you’ll want to take care to avoid the slightest movement of the camera. Just touching the shutter release with your finger can cause enough movement to slightly blur your photo. Be sure to use a strong tripod and a remote or wired shutter release device. And don`t forget to set the image stabilizer of your camera or lenses to off, as this will also produce unsharp photos (from the movement of the stabilizer).

Macro Lenses:

There are a variety of macro lenses available; 50, 90, 100, 105, 150, and 180 mm.I prefer the 90 and 180 mm lenses. They afford me the opportunity to get the most out of my creative ideas with unlimited photo possibilities. A 50 mm provides the most details

With a 180/3.5 lens you’ll get clean, noise-free backgrounds that won’t distract from the flowers, and a 50 mm will provide the most detail because the distance from the lens to the subject is very short, resulting in higher quality. If you’re not sure where to start, I would suggest a 90 mm macro lens.

Macro photo of Snowdrop white flowers by Edwin Brosens

© 2012 Edwin Brosens. All rights reserved.

Sony Alpha 700, 90 /2.8 Macro + Flash, F/16 @ 1/40 sec.

Flash:

An external flash is used to create or lessen the intensity of the shadows on the flower. It will have a direct affect on the shutter speed, the white balance and ultimately the sharpness of the photo. Use a flashgun where you can set the level of your flash from 1/1 to 1/32 (depending on your flash). Be aware that the white of the snowdrops and other white flowers will strongly reflect the white flashlight, so you could get harsh light on the white flowers. Try difference flash level settings and also try difference distances from the flash and the flowers until you achieve the desired look.

ISO & Shutter Speed:

The ISO and shutter speed selections are important factors for making quality photos when the majority of your subject is white. Try to use an ISO of 100 or the lowest your camera settings will allow. The lower the ISO, the higher your chances are of retaining the flower details. Because the images are being created in a studio with the use of a tripod, longer shutter speeds will not become an issue. Both lower ISO and slow shutter speed settings will influence the colors within the photo, so adjust your settings until you get your desired look.

Macro photo of Snowdrop white flower by Edwin Brosens

© 2012 Edwin Brosens. All rights reserved.

Sony Alpha 700, 180 /3.5 Macro + Flash, F/11 @ 1/20 sec.

White Balance:

When you’re working in-house with both studio and flash lighting, selection of White Balance is sometimes difficult to achieve. The color of the light from the lamps gets mixed into the colors of your flashlight.

To measure the exact color temperature, select the custom White Balance setting on your camera:<![if !vml]><![endif]> . This process can be a bit confusing and time consuming before you reach the correct setting, as you will probably need to take several images.


Falcon Eyes Grey Cards image

To simplify the process, I would suggest using a white balance grey card so you can measure the right color temperature of the light. By placing the grey card next to the flower and photographing the grey card, the camera measures the color temperature and sets the camera to the correct level.

Depth of Field:

The depth of field is determined by the combination of a macro lens and the aperture setting. And since a black background is being used, the flower will be the only part of your image that will need to be sharp. An aperture of f/14 is the highest you will need. With a 90 mm lens set at f/14 the depth of field is about 8 mm with a focus distance of 20 cm. (8 inches) and this is enough to get the snowdrops flower sharp within the photo.

I would strongly suggest that you use manual focusing, because the depth of field is also dependent upon the focus point. One third of the depth of field distance starts from the focus point to your camera and two thirds behind the focus point. By using manual focus you can look through your viewfinder and decide where to set your depth of field – press the depth of field preview button on your camera to see the results as you turn the focus ring of the macro lens.

Macro photo of Snowdrop white flower by Edwin Brosens

© 2012 Edwin Brosens. All rights reserved.

Sony Alpha 700, 90 /2.8 Macro + Flash, F/14 @ 1/10 sec.

Shadows:

We need shadows in flower photography, because they help create depth in the image. We can change the direction of the shadows by merely placing the flash or camera in another position. Harsh shadows can be created by using slower shutter speeds of 1 or 2 stops below the exposure meter setting of your camera, but with white flowers, care must be given to find the right combination of shades to keep the subject in balance. Try various combinations of flash and camera positions to find out what works the best for you. There is no magic formula, only your vision and creative expression.

Macro photo of two Snowdrop white flowers by Edwin Brosens

© 2012 Edwin Brosens. All rights reserved.

Sony Alpha 700, 180 /3.5 Macro + Flash, F/11 @ 1/40 sec.

Composition:

One of the most important considerations to be made in photography is composition. While the rule of thirds is a good place to start, the phrase “rules are made to broken” can certainly be applied. While looking through the viewfinder of your camera, pay attention to the space around your subject and try to create a visual composition that is different from what you usually see. Try difference compositions by photographing from a variety of angles. By making twenty or more photos of the same subject and then comparing them, you can learn to really “see” and determine what it takes to make a great composition.

Macro photo of Snowdrop white flower by Edwin Brosens

© 2012 Edwin Brosens. All rights reserved.

Sony Alpha 700, 90 /2.8 Macro + Flash, F/14 @ 1/30 sec.

With these practical tips in mind, try your hand at photographing white flowers in a studio setting.

If you have any questions, please contact me at edwin.brosens@gmail.com. Good luck and have fun.

by Edwin Brosens

SaleBestselling DSLR #1
All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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