RCPS Press Report 13th August 2015

Ripon City Photographic Society

Many members like to take pictures of flowers because they provide colour, texture and form giving rise to beautiful images. So, what works best in this type of photography? The first requirement is a camera with a macro facility or better still, a good macro lens, one that allows you to get in close and personal! Most compacts and bridge cameras will have a feature for macro photography, usually depicted by a symbol showing a flower head. You can simply switch to this when taking pictures of flowers. However, if you want detail and control, using a DSLR camera with a dedicated macro lens, anywhere between 100mm-180mm, offers the best prospects.

You will need to decide what you want to take – a whole plant, a flower head or detail of a flower head? Remember you don’t have to take a picture of a full flower head for impact, sometimes part of a flower head is equally if not more pleasing, producing an abstract style of image. If you want detail then you will need to go in close, very close. Whilst using a macro lens allows you to do this, the trade off is that you will find a very narrow depth of field. Putting your camera on manual focus allows you to experiment with adjusting the focus to get the result you want, because the smallest of focus adjustment will result in changes to the depth of field. On some compact and bridge cameras you might find a feature that allows you to zoom in on one part of the frame to aid the focusing process.

Flower pictures are often characterised by a sharp focus to the main subject with a soft, blurred background that is, in photographic jargon, referred to as ‘bokeh’ (pronounced boh-kay). Bokeh is the slightly blurred, out of focus parts of an image that can add to the overall effect producing a picture free of distracting background detail. To achieve this it is advisable to use a longer lens, for example a 70-200 zoom, set on a tripod at a distance, zoomed in and with a low aperture (f2.8) camera setting.

Taking pictures of flowers in their natural habitat is challenging and exciting, however factors such as the light and wind can play an important part. The use of a tripod is recommended as the smallest of camera shake or movement of the photographer can adversely affect the outcome, however in windy conditions even this may not be enough. If it is windy, you will need to increase the shutter speed (T or Tv) to at least 1/2000 sec or faster and you may have to get someone to actually hold the stem of a flower steady to keep it still – but remember to check their hand is not in shot. Palmate leaves and palms may be acceptable but not fingers! Strong sunlight is not good for floral photography as can give rise to brash colours and washed out pictures. Better to have an overcast, almost cloudy day or use the softer light of early morning or early evening to get better results. If you need more light, consider using a reflector. If you don’t have one with you, even a newspaper will offer some assistance! If possible, have a water bottle, preferably with a spray nozzle in your kit. Even the best looking flower can be enhanced with a spray of water that will produce droplets on the flower and leaves and result in a more interesting shot, particularly if you can take it with the droplets catching the sunlight.

Taking pictures of leaves lit from behind can be an excellent way of showing the detail of plant structure. Choosing a single leaf rather than a mass is preferable. Use a wide angle setting on a zoom lens, get in close and focus on the detail that is standing out due to the sunlight shining through the leaf and you should get an admirable image.

If you are operating your camera on full manual then take the exposure reading from the flower(s) not the, almost sure to be, darker background. Lighting is so important, for example, when photographing brightly coloured flowers it is best to position the camera to capture the flower against the darkest background available as this will show off the colour to its best and result in a punchier image. Flash may wash out a picture, however, using flash in full sunlight can help to freeze rapid motion and remove shadows, which might be useful if trying to capture a bee or similar alighting on a flower. To achieve this you will have to use a long lens, focus in on an area that you anticipate a bee to visit and wait for it to happen!

The great thing about this type of photography is that almost anyone can try their hand at it without having to travel far as often the subject matter is close at hand


We want to make our Annual Exhibition on Saturday, 5th September at Allhallowgate Church Hall, the best yet. The event runs from 0930 to 1600 with The Right Worshipful, the Mayor of Ripon, Cllr Pauline McHardy, officially opening the event at 10am, presenting awards and certificates to members whose images achieved success at the YPU Exhibition and finally touring the exhibition with her Consort before enjoying the hospitality of our café.

If you can help in any way, for whatever length of time, please contact Derek or Carol – details in the Members’ Book or on your e-mails.

For more information please go to www.riponcityphotographicsociety.co.uk