How to Shoot Wildflowers

In the spring, we get a lot of wildflowers and they are very pretty, but I have found it difficult to get compelling photos of them. I think what makes them so difficult to photograph well is that there can be so many of them that the photo can lack a focus point for the viewer’s eye. A picture of just a patch of wildflowers is really just a pretty pattern and I suppose that is great for the desktop background on your computer but it isn’t really something to look at on its own. So, I have a few strategies to try to take wildflower photos that are pretty and hopefully interesting to look at.

First, find an interesting subject that is amid the wildflowers or uses the flowers as a backdrop. Many people do this with their kids, but my kids are adults and no longer really want me to drag them around to shoot photos. So, I try to find more cooperative elements to incorporate into my photos. Below is a photo of a prickly pear cactus in a patch of bluebonnets taken in a city park near my house. The prickly pear is close to the viewer and your eye is immediately drawn to it, so while the pattern of wildflowers is pretty, there is the spiny cactus to focus on. You can see that most of the bluebonnets are not even really in focus, but it doesn’t really matter because they are just the setting and you aren’t staring at individual flowers.

On a technical note, I took this photo before the sun came out from behind some clouds and it was a bit dark and flat. So, I boosted the exposure quite a bit in Lightroom. And I have found that when you boost the exposure, you can also get away with warming up the white balance of the image quite a bit to improve the mood. This is what I did with the above photo. I also masked over the cactus and brought up the contrast to make the needles pop a bit more.

In the next picture I used the bluebonnets for a foreground rather than a background. There is an interesting looking Hindu temple next door to the park and I thought it looked cool with the flowers in the foreground. Your eye is probably drawn to the building in the distance and the flowers are just a pretty dressing in the foreground. It doesn’t really matter that the flowers aren’t in focus, they are pretty and there is something interesting to look at. In hindsight, I might have gotten a little lower to reduce the midground in the image.

On a technical note, the image above was taken on a slight hill so it looks a little crooked, but you can see that the temple is standing straight up. Also, this park is near the city water plant and there is a large blue pipe that sticks out of the ground in the mid-ground that I disappeared in Photoshop.

Another strategy is to isolate a flower from the others. You can do this by finding a lone flower or finding a flower that is slightly removed from its kin and get really close to it in order to shrink the focus depth and thus isolate the flower from the out-of-focus background. It can be a bit difficult to frame the flower, watch the background, and try to keep focus all at the same time. You are also fighting photo-bombing grasses and weeds as nature doesn’t like a clean composition.

I have attempted this strategy in the photo below. I got down really low and basically shot this flower at the minimum focus distance of my lens. The shorter the focus distance, the shallower the depth of focus is and I used this principle to blur out the background and isolate the subject. The flower in the photo below is not really very far from the background, but it was only a couple inches from my camera lens. You can easily discern and focus on the individual bluebonnet set against a background pattern of other out-of-focus bluebonnets.

I did close the aperture down to f/9 to try to get most of the bluebonnet in focus, but perhaps I should have shot more open to get better background blur. What do you think?

Another variation on the close-up strategy that I tried was using a yellow flower for a strong contrast with the bluebonnets and attempting to tell a little story with the photo. The warm yellow wildflower in the foreground really pops against the sea of cool blue flowers and draws the eye. And to me the yellow flower standing alone among all of the blue flowers says that even if you are quite different from everyone else, you can still be just as beautiful.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found this interesting.

16 thoughts on “How to Shoot Wildflowers

  1. Sometimes some things are just better appreciated in real time and in real life as opposed to “capturing” a photographic memory. I agree that making images of landscapes can at times be difficult and all the more challenging and intriguing to create an image of a place or object. Butnit is always fun trying and getting outdoors to attempt it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed reading about the process you go through and always like to see the Blue bonnets. We are planning to go to Wildseed Farm sometime to see more of them.
    Your yellow flower photo is my favorite and the story just makes it more so.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I like these tips for photographing wildflowers. Judging from the photos in this post, the tips work well, so I’ll keep them in mind. I also like the point you made about the yellow flower. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve always loved wildflowers far more than hothouse flowers or the traditional “English garden” where everything is in perfect, neat rows. It breaks my heart in the summer to see people mowing their dandelions and other wildflowers down! Your photos are gorgeous … thank you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.