Featured image: Thomas Jerger
I started working on flowers as a subject of photography just a few years ago. I had just left working on high risk information systems projects as a project manager due to health issues in my family and decided to spend time working on photography as my situation allowed.
I had not done any photographic work for decades. When last I produced images, dark rooms and bulk film loaders were requirements.
I secured a Nikon D7100 and a 55-300mm zoom lens, some software for post process, and a good printer…and I started off.
The Evolution to Flowers
I took pictures of everything. Hundreds of shots. Perhaps thousands. Some were okay. Most were not. My venues were limited as was my time.
I started posting what I thought were my better shots and got limited feedback that indicted that my work was average at best. Meanwhile, due to the health issues, we began to receive flowers.
Now, most of us like flowers, in a general way. They are, after all, pretty. I liked flowers as well, but never really thought of them much. They were just something we planted next to the vegetables and hoped would come up.
I started to really look at the flowers we were receiving. Some seemed cheerful, some sad, some formal, some even flippant.
I started to take some shots of the bouquets. In the process, I realized that I never had really seen flowers before. They had been background.
I began to try taking photographs that showed these moods. The feedback to my posts began to improve. I invested in macro lenses. I continued to take hundreds of shots. However, now more were okay and some were received very well.
I now use three different macro lenses (40mm, 85mm, and 105mm). Soon I found that most of my subjects were flowers.
For me, first was availability. I live in Milwaukee, WI, an urban area, and have limited time. The Milwaukee metro area is filled with parks. This includes the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory and the Boerner Botanical Garden. We have also established a small urban garden at our apartment complex.
Second, was my seeing messages in how flowers grew, positioned, and varied with the light and seasons. The variation was tremendous.
Third on my list was that during the Winter and early Spring, I could still find flowers at the Mitchell Domes or simply buy some at the local grocery store.
Last, through my work with them, I became passionate about them.
Hints and Tips
I learned some lessons in this journey. Many of these are important no matter what your subject.
Your best work may not be the most popular work. The pieces I have been most passionate about have frequently not been the most popular. If you are posting your photographs, the ones with the most votes, likes, or favors, are not likely to be the ones you are happiest with. If you think popularity and quality are the same thing, just think about current trends and fads. Quality is not popularity.
Composition and Subject Isolation
Composition and subject isolation are important. Read up on composition. Isolation of the subject can be achieved by depth of field, background/foreground contrast, lighting, etc.
When shooting flowers, consider what your actual subject is. It frequently is not the flower itself. It is rather the aspects of the flower you want to emphasis. For me, it is often the emotion the flower embodies.
Bigger is not Necessarily Better
Much of this work is macro work. As such, it is easy to get initially overtaken by the novelty of magnified detail. I rapidly discovered that a magnified weakly composed shot was just that. Macro, for me, is a tool, not an objective.
I believe all good photography captures messages. When shooting or post processing, consider the message you are trying to convey. My best work is easy to title. That said, sometimes a bouquet is a bouquet and an Autumn bloom is an Autumn bloom. However, I believe even these are trying to convey the experience of each.
I have enjoyed my journey with flowers and look forward to where it will lead next.