How To: Moody Macro Floral Photography
I’ve always loved flowers. Mostly thanks to my Mom because no matter where we lived she had a garden. And once we settled in Oklahoma City for good she began to work on turning the front yard of their house into what she loved most. Over the years she’s cultivated peonies and hydrangeas, all kinds of ferns and hostas, and all the brightest and most beautiful annuals. So, considering the love of flowers I inherited it makes sense that photographing flowers would also be one of my favorite things.
I’ve also been inspired by all the beautiful and dark floral photography out there. I love that flowers can be sunshiny and happy and bright but I love the contrast of shadows even more.
Even before I knew what macro photography was or how a photographer got there I loved it. Getting a macro lens had been on my wish list for a while and a year or so ago I invested in the Canon 100mm f/2.8L. It quickly became one of my favorite lenses though I don’t reach for it as often as I should.
I spent a lot of time online trying to figure out how those gorgeous dark and moody photographs of flowers and food turn out that way. I guess if you wanted to you’d be able to do most of, if not all, in some kind of photo editor. But I know just enough about Lightroom to get me by and I know nothing at all about Photoshop (though that is one of my goals for the year - master photoshop). So I was looking for dark and moody options that didn’t involve too much of either.
It actually turned out to be pretty easy. It’s all about finding the right light and creating a light, or in my case, dark box. I took test photos several places in my house and I ended up at the downstairs living room window - which has now become home to all my inside photo projects that need great natural light.
And because I was being lazy and hadn’t planned too far in ahead I just propped my foam core boards together and placed a piece of black poster board on top. I knocked it over a few times, and at some point I plan build a light box, but for a spur of the moment experiment it worked really well.
My moody macro tips:
Find a good source of light. I’ve got a favorite window in my house but also a few desk lamps that I use. I found two great ones at Target for five dollars.
Black poster board for a nice solid black background.
foam core board to make the sides of your box or in my case triangle half-assed setup.
Ikea and thrift stores for props - cutting boards and old baking pans for backgrounds or places to set and arrange flowers.
try different angles - might seem obvious but it’s something I had to remind myself to do.
variety of flowers - I started with freesias and fancy tulips. I ended up hating how the tulip photos turned out even though I expected to love those the most. I was really happy I’d picked up a couple different types to start with.
shoot everything and worry about editing later - Lightroom is magic.
Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for flowers - there aren’t a lot of other options here in Oklahoma City without going some place more expensive and still get a really good variety. Hopefully where ever you live you’ve got some other options too.