Photographing Roses & Flowers

Photographing Roses & Flowers
By Stan V. Griep
Consulting Rosarian and Award Winning Floral Photographer
Colorado Native Rosarian 40+ Years Experience

I am truly an amateur photographer however I have held my own in various photography contests, shows and related events, when it comes to first place ribbons and awards. In this article I will be sharing some of my thoughts and processes of taking pictures of the roses and flowers bloom smiles which I love.

 My favorite time to take pictures of roses & flowers is in the morning, before noon and before the heat of the day. The blooms seem refreshed after the cooler temperatures of the evening and perhaps even a bit of overnight rain that has provided a cool drink of water for the rosebushes and plants.  The lighting of the morning sun seems best as well as it does not create bright spots upon the blooms that cause the texture of the petals to be lost. This is especially true on the red and white blooms as they seem to either bleed out their color worse, in the case of red blooms, or create a flash effect upon the petals in the case of white and sometimes yellow blooms.

I had attended some rose shows and local fairs to see what bloom styles were winning at those events, paying particular attention to the blooms form and color variations. Looking at those winning blooms more closely, while moving around the blooms, allowed me to see the full beauty of each bloom. While a bloom may be beautiful when first viewed, it may be even more beautiful from another angle. Some blooms that have attracted my attention from across the room have actually been quite stunning when viewed at another totally different angle. Finding that stunning or optimum view is what I call the “recognition factor”, this factor is not something automatic, instead it is something learned. At many of the shows or events the same judges that inspect and judge the roses or flowers blooms are the ones inspecting and judging the photography portions of the events. Seeing what perhaps they saw in the various blooms is of the utmost importance to having not only a stunning photograph but also a winning photograph. Speaking to the various judges about what they saw in the various blooms is also priceless in helping one learn about what others find particularly special about a certain bloom or bouquet of blooms. A given angle of view for a bloom may be beautiful to me initially but may not be as beautiful or “eye-catching” as another angle of view, I know this statement is a bit repetitious however it is very important.  Once the “recognition factor“ has been learned, the photographer can spot the best setting or angle of view for a truly outstanding photo of the subject bloom or blooms readily.

Learning of particular likes and dislikes of various judges is good information to know as that too will make a huge difference in how your photos do in a show or competition.  For instance I ran into a judge at one show that went totally off the wall ballistic over some fairies that had been captured as part of a photo of some beautiful roses. The fairy figurines were added into the photo as a bit of whimsy and got many a compliment from those attending the show. The judge however, seemed to dislike the fairies in those photos intensely and let it be well known I might add! If you know such a judge is going to be judging the photography portion of a particular show, well, you definitely want to steer clear of having any such whimsical additions in your photos!

At a recent show I was not aware of whom the actual judges would be and had one photo I had entered that had a photo over the top of a beautiful spray of roses with a Garden Angel behind. Quite strikingly beautiful it was too I might add, as I had several comments as to its beauty prior to the shows judging and again afterwards. One of the judges that were doing the photography judging was the one that had the intense dislike for fairies….. The photo did manage to place second in its class, due mostly to another judge involved in the photography judging. I knew I was in trouble with that photograph having any chance at a first place ribbon upon seeing who the judges were. That too is a recognition factor but one of a totally different kind!  

When taking photos of roses and flowers there are not only various angles of view, lighting concerns and bloom forms to take into consideration. There is the background for the shot, the all important background is not to be taken lightly and most certainly not overlooked. A bloom set against its own plants rich foliage will usually make for a nice shot. However, a big old fly or grasshopper sitting on that foliage and looking straight at you on the foliage is not so good to have in the shot! Or perhaps one of those smiling little garden gnomes behind the bloom in the picture will be something to deal with.  In cases where the background is not so good I used either a 30” x 30” piece of black satiny material covered felt cloth or the same size piece of white felt covered with a white satiny material. These cloth backgrounds give me a great background for the subject bloom or blooms so that I do not have to deal with a less than desirable background. You do have to learn how to deal with the lighting effects upon those backgrounds as well though. The white background can reflect so much light that it will totally wash out the subject of your shot.  The black background can create a bit of color bounce to the shot that will change the color of the subject adding a bit of blue to it. The natural texture of the material backgrounds can cause problems as well if the sunlight hits those textures at just the wrong angle during a given photo shoot. The texture lines of the fabric will appear behind the subject bloom or blooms and be very distracting, trying to eliminate them even with good photo editing software is a time consuming process.

Once a bloom or some blooms are located for your photo shoot, take several shots at various angles. Change the exposure settings as well while taking the several shots.  Move around the bloom or blooms circularly as well as up and down. It can be truly amazing to see the changes in the bloom or blooms as you move around them. There are times when a particular shot causes one to pause and enjoy that view. That pause is usually strongly connected to the “recognition factor” I mentioned earlier.  You will indeed know exactly what I mean once you have experienced it.

One last thing about photographing roses and flowers, keep in mind that this is my personal opinion. There is not much of anything we can do to make a bloom or blooms more beautiful than the God given beauty they already hold. So while it is fun at times to play around with our photos and create different effects on their color or form, the result is not everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak. When entering such manipulated photography in a show or competition, the photographer really needs to know the background of likes and dislikes of the judges that are doing the judging in order to have any hopes of doing well in the show or competition. 

Use your camera a lot, take several photos from various angles, positions and with various settings. Perhaps make notes when having photo shoots as to what settings were used and time of day. Once you figure out what gives you the captures you are looking for the recognition factor truly kicks in.

With digital cameras it is so easy to take a bunch of shots and then sort them out later to find those true gems in the group.  Remember also to breathe and keep as relaxed as possible as this goes a long way to preventing those shot blurring camera shakes and movements.

Capture the beauty you behold and don’t be afraid to share it. Others may not appreciate it as you do but some will truly enjoy your work creating a smile on their faces and yours. Those are the moments that make it all so worthwhile.

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