We have another special guest today! You might remember that during our Expert Panel discussion on photography last week, Emelie Ekborg mentioned that she had some additional photography tips for the BB readers. Emelie is both a floral designer and a professional photographer…and graciously put together a few hints for us on how to photograph our flowers better for use on our websites and social media. Welcome, Emelie…
An image says more than 1000 words, right? So of course we need to post photos of high quality on our website and social media, to get recognized by clients, magazines and bloggers. I’m both a floral designer and a photographer and to help you take better photos of your floral work, I’ve made a quick photography guide just for floral designers.
1. Know your camera! Invest in a SLR camera (even for Instagram photos). It’s enough to have a basic one with one lens but learn how to use it properly. The important things to learn are shutter speeds, apertures, ISO and focus points. Don’t use the auto settings! I know it’s boring, but this is the only way! Read and learn the user manual and search on Youtube. There are loads of photography tutorials for beginners.
2. Use a clean background. This doesn’t mean you need a completely white wall or white sheet, but try to remove clutter and disturbing objects.
3. Use natural light, no flash! Good natural light is very important. Flash gives a harsh, flat and unnatural look, as does direct sunlight. This means that sometimes it’s good to shoot in the shadow of a tree or something similar and sometimes it’s better to move your object to a window. Play around and shoot the same object in different places and see the differences in the light.
Above: The bouquet and a behind the scene photo. This is how it might look when I’m shooting bouquets. The counter in my kitchen is just next to a window, which gives me lots of natural light.
4. Positions and angles. The most common positions for bouquets are from above at an angle or laying down at an angle. But in some cases straight from above or side is better. Sometimes it can be useful to stand on a bucket or chair (especially if you’re short like me) to get a better position and sometimes you need to get down on your knees.
Above: Two very classic and good positions for bouquets – from above at an angle and laying down.
5. The hand…someone is holding the bouquet. It’s very common for floral designers to shoot a bouquet straight from the front, against a wall and a hand coming in from the side, holding the bouquet. Try to close in on the bouquet and let the hand come from down under instead. In this way the photo becomes less stiff. Also focus on one part of the bouquet or a specific flower to get more depth of field (blur), see tips no.7. As an alternative to “the hand” it’s quite nice if the person is holding the bouquet in front of the belly and wearing a dress. Then zoom in on just the bouquet.
Above: “The hand” and two alternatives. On the second photo I’m wearing an ordinary white shirt and in the third photo I’m wearing a dress (note how different it looks with different backgrounds). When you hold the bouquet in front of you the image becomes less stiff.
6. The focus points. The first thing you should learn about your camera is the settings for the focus points. Learn how to move the focus and you will see a dramatic change in the photos.
Above: In the first photo the focus is on the anemone in the front and in the second the focus is on the ivy berries in the back. Now it’s easy to see how important it is to get the focus right.
7. Depth of field. To be able to create depth of field (blur) you need to change the apertures and shutter. The indication for apertures is the “f/” followed by a number, for example f/2.8. The lower the number, the more blur. Apertures is connected to the shutter and if you don’t know how it’s working, the first step is to use the apertures mode on you camera (A or AV). In apertures mode you change just the apertures (how much blur you want) and the camera is doing the shutter settings for you. Depth of field is really great to neutralize and soften the background, to put the flowers in the centre of the image and to get a more “professional look”.
Above: In the first photo I used f/5 and you can see that the whole image is sharp and without blur. On the second photo I used f/1.8 and there’s a lot more blur. Also see how I used the depth of field on the image for tip 6.
8. Crop and straighten. In most photos you catch a corner of something, a strip, an edge etc.. Crop the image in Photoshop or any other editing program. It’s also a good idea to straighten the image (in the same program). Even though you think you shot it straight, at a closer look it might not be so straight anymore.
Above: The first photo is the original and in the second photo you can see how I cropped it. The edge of my shirt (lower right corner) is gone and the photo looks more “clean”.
9. Learn the basics of Photoshop or any other photo editing program. You don’t need to learn everything just the most important things, such as exposure (brightening up), contrasts, crop and white balance (when white looks yellow, for example). Search for tutorials on Youtube – it’s so much easier (and fun) to understand when you actually see how to do it!
10. Save the photos right. Always save the photos as high resolution, the highest quality and in a large size (for example 3552 x 5040). Then you can resave the photos you want to use for social media or your website in a smaller size. Full size images on the web can take a long time to load, but you want to keep the high resolution images for publicity. It’s just too sad to get a photo request from a magazine and then after sending small “web size” get the reply that they only use high res images.
11. Watermark your images. Personally I don’t watermark my photos because of image theft, but because of the traffic from Pinterest and bloggers. After a while out in cyber space the original source is lost, but if you watermark your photo with your logo or URL you can still gain some traffic and hopefully even customers. Some people like to place a big watermark over the whole image. In my point of view that just looks ugly. I prefer to use a small and discrete watermark in a corner or at the bottom of the image and I also use the same watermark on all my photos.
12. Shot in RAW. To shoot in raw (instead of .jpg) and with completely manual setting is the next level. The raw format gives you a lot more opportunities to save a bad photo by editing but you will need Photoshop or Lightroom.
Finally, I just want to say shoot a lot, experiment with different lights, backgrounds and settings and you get a feeling for it. Compare your photos and learn from your mistakes.
How to make an easy watermark in Photoshop https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KweeZ2opDM
Thank you, Emelie! I appreciate your hard work and generosity in creating and sharing this post with the BB readers.
Note from Amy, Botanical Brouhaha editor: While I understand the rationale behind watermarking images and respect the choice of a photographer or designer to place them on photos, many blogs will not feature watermarked images. Since I feature clean images (only) on BB and I’m pressed for time to meet deadlines, unfortunately watermarked images are usually passed over. Occasionally when I see an incredible image and time permits, I track down the photographer/designer and request a clean copy. Other times I see a spectacular image, but simply don’t have the time to track down & contact the photographer, request a clean image and wait for the submission. Some blogs have a submission process which eliminates this problem as they ask you to submit your photos according to certain criteria. As BB grows, perhaps I’ll eventually have a staff member to help with this process…until then, I covet your non-watermarked images and I make every attempt to credit & link to the designer and photographer responsible for the images I share.