How to shoot flowers & plants like a pro

If you are wanting to up your photography game, then shooting flowers, plants and nature are one of the easiest and most accessible subjects to hone your skills. Plus, lets face it, they are enjoyable to photograph and great for filling your Instagram feed! I can't even begin to imagine the number of floral images that have been posted on the app since it began... gazillions surely! To get you started on the road to better images, photographer Eva Nemeth is sharing her top tips for shooting great botanical imagery, whether it's in your garden, the local park or even in your kitchen.... 

It’s first light, and my morning rituals are quite the same every day: I make coffee and go in the garden to see what’s blooming - keen to see if anything new has appeared since the day before. Or, I make coffee and check Instagram - to see what’s blooming and if anything new appeared since the day before. These are two areas of my life that inspire me immensely, so I’m going to share a little bit about how to combine the two successfully.

Nature and flowers are everywhere - there for us to enjoy and be inspired by. Just step out into your own garden, head down to your local florists, along a country lane or to a city garden, and there is an abundance of opportunities to practice your botanical photography. Even if you prefer to shoot indoors at home, there’s so much you can bring out of the flowers or plants that you bring in. 

The creativity we see on Instagram every day is endless and forever inspiring, and you don’t need fancy props to be creative. I’m lucky enough to be getting paid for photographing flowers and gardens, so below I’ve compiled a few of my top tips to help you improve your own images, perfect for prettifying your feed.

Plant, flower or vegetable?

When we visit a garden, most of us are drawn in by the flowers - beautiful climbing roses, blooming borders and wildflower meadows. But a garden is so much more than just flowers. It’s also vegetables, trees, textures, tools, pots and seeds. These are the details that I think give a garden its own personality, so look around and take advantage of all aspects of the space.

Time of day

Try to shoot in the morning or late in the day to avoid harsh sunshine. It’s absolutely ok to play with contrast in the bigger picture but when you get close, you’ll notice how white flowers for example lose their detail in the bright light. Golden hour (sunrise and sunset) is a great time, or take advantage of a misty morning for great atmospheric shots.  

Give me light

I never use anything other than natural light. Nature wouldn’t want it any other way, I’m sure! Bear this in mind when indoors too – try to place your plants or flowers near a window and turn off any artificial light sources.

The angle

Try shooting from an unusual angle. This often means you capture something that people wouldn’t normally see. I absolutely love lying in a summer meadow or at ground level with snowdrops (very carefully, of course!). 

Playing with colour

When it comes to colour, I always try to avoid anything too bold and have realised my preference is for softer colours. But this is totally personal. Nature is pretty good at the whole colour thing, but great creative with it – try using similar shades to make an ombre spectrum of blooms, or match your flowers to other props in your image, like beautiful old books, or a painted chair for example.

Props

I don’t use too many props, but if I do, I like to choose from my collection of terracotta pots (my addiction) and I love to collect packets of seeds and garden tools - especially old ones - anything that says garden. Oh yes, and garden books - you can find beautiful botanical books at flea markets, car boot sales and good old-fashioned book shops. Experiment with materials and tools such as linen, brown paper, twine and scissors – particularly when shooting cut flowers. My other favourite props are pretty doors and windows!

Floral flat lays

I don’t have a styling background but I believe my own style has developed over time. Flowers are perfect for styling any images whether it’s a shot of the book you’re currently reading, or alongside your morning cuppa. Flat lays are hugely popular on Instagram, plus they are lots of fun to style and shoot and can be done even in the smallest of spaces - all you need are a few different background options. I like using old wooden boards - rustic or painted white - stone and fabrics. You can gather a collection together or you even buy photo backgrounds these days from Capture by Lucy – vinyl backdrops of different surfaces – anything from 'peeling paint door' to 'scratched metal' to 'pink plaster'. Try lots of different compositions for your flat lays, and again remember natural light is best.

Playing with aperture

If you are shooting with an DSLR, then try to get the best lens you can afford. The great advantage of shooting with a prime lens is that it lets you work in low light conditions (ie. early morning/late evening when the light is best). If you shoot with a large aperture, for example f1.4, the lens will allow your subject to stand out nicely, while the rest of the image will have that nice soft, blurred background (shallow depth of field). You can achieve this on your camera phone by holding your finger on the screen where you want the main focus to be, although results from a DSLR are usually best. If you'd prefer to have all of your subject in focus, for example, in a landscape image, then use a bigger f-stop (ie. f32) and a tripod is essential here.

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Any rules?

One common photography “rule” is the ‘rule of thirds’. It’s a great rule to follow but it can be broken. Often when I shoot a floral portrait, I centre the flower for more impact. And of course stepping outside the norm lends itself to creativity and unusual compositions so feel free to bend the rules!

No matter what camera or lens you use, what flowers or plants you photograph, the most important thing is to enjoy it, love what you do. Share your photos with the world and you’ll find a wonderful community of people who love the same things as you do.  Below are ten of our favourite hashtags to find botanical inspiration over on Instagram, and of course use on your own floral photography: 

#moodforfloral / #justbefloral / #inspirewithblooms / #aflowerenthusiast / #myfloralmonth / #petalsandprops / #simplenaturefinds / #slowfloralstyle / #underthefloralspell / #thefloralseasons

Images and words by Eva Nemeth - find Eva on Instagram