Macro and super close up shots of flowers are common, and whilst it is cool to see how a flower is actually made it without resorting to getting out the magnifying glass I have to admit this is not how I photograph flowers and the reason for this is because I prefer to take photos of wild flowers.
Many photographers claim extreme close up shots of flowers were taken out in the field, i.e. in the flower’s natural habitat, however after spending hours trying to capture these types of shot out in the countryside I don’t believe this is true.
The depth of field is critical in macro photography and getting a sharp shot from the center to the edges of the frame requires very narrow apertures. In normal circumstances you don’t need to go narrower than f11, however using f11 in a macro shot is going to leave a substantial amount of the photo soft and out of focus. To get everything in the frame nice and sharp an aperture of f16, or even narrower, is needed. The narrower apertures increases the exposure time, which means you need to use a tripod for these extreme close up shots. Sure, you can try taking them hand held and you may even get a sharp image or two, but I can guarantee that 99 times out of a 100 a hand held extreme close up photo will turn out blurry.
Movement is one of the biggest issues with taking macro photos of flowers and the slightest movement turns the photo in to a blurry mess. If the camera moves during the exposure the photo will blur, if the flower moves during the exposure the photo will blur, and if both the camera and the flower moves during the exposure there is no chance the photo is going to be sharp.
Out in the countryside making sure everything remains totally stationery during the exposure is virtually impossible:-
You can of course try to eliminate the effects of soft ground by placing some kind of platform on the ground on which to rest the tripod, but these seldom work.
I have read that shielding flowers from the elements, with a large reflector will keep them still during the exposure, however I have yet to have success using this either. I have also seen reports of photographers using a “plamp” device to keep the flower still, but using one of these hasn’t worked for me either, well not when taking extreme close up shots.
Another issue I have with taking extreme close up photos of wildflowers is getting the tripod in a location where I can actually take the shot. Wild flowers are often situated in an awkward place and it is never possible to get all around them to find the best angle/location for the tripod, and when there is other foliage, hedges and trees around the task becomes even more difficult.
If you look at the extreme close up photos of flowers the flower used is usually immaculate with uniform colors. None of the flowers I see when I am out in the countryside are ever immaculate. I mean, the flowers have ripped petals, holes in them (where they have been eaten by bugs), brown patches….. the list goes on. The other thing I have noticed is that when I take extreme close up shots of wild flowers they are riddled with microscopic bugs and there are strands of spiders’ web all over them, things you obviously can’t see with the naked eye. When a wild flower looks immaculate to the naked eye I can guarantee that if you get the magnifying glass out and have a look, or take an extreme close up using a macro lens that flower will not be immaculate and it will be an eyesore.
No matter how much the photographer claims their extreme macro photos and close up photos of flowers are taken in the wild I don’t believe it, unless the flower is riddled with bugs, doesn’t look very pretty and some of the image is soft that is. As for the extreme close up flowers that are technically perfect, not a chance! You can only get these types of shots with shop bought flowers in a studio environment where you have total control over everything.
Out in the wild it is possible to get close up and frame filling shots of flowers such as these:-
The flower photos above are close up but they are far from being macro photos, but then given I have had more success selling flower photos like those above rather than the extreme close up flowers (in a studio environment of course) I know what flower photos I am going to concentrate and focus on in the future.
Below are some links to other macro photography articles you may find useful/interesting:-
“Using a super zoom lens for macro photography” is an article that proves you don’t necessarily need a specific macro lens to get macro and close up shots.
“Shooting insects” is an article full of tips and advice to capture awesome insect photos.
“Macro photography on the cheap” is an article that shows you don’t need to spend a fortune to capture stunning macro photos.
“The best flash for macro photography” is an article that explores the best macro photography lighting solutions available.
“Ring light or ring flash?” is an article that looks at the situations when a ring light is the best solution, and when the ring flash is the best solution.
“Why you need a ring flash with ETTL” is an article proving that if you are going to use a ring flash you need to use one that has both manual and ETTL modes.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.