A trip to your local florists and a window are all you need for some eye-catching close-ups.
There’s a lot to be said for buying a bunch of flowers. Yes, they’ll be much appreciated by someone if you’re giving them as a gift, but they also offer a perfect chance to indulge in a little photo project. All you need to do is buy a bouquet for a few pounds, choose the right spot in your house and then set the shot up.
I nipped along to a local convenience shop and picked up a fresh bouquet full of purples and whites. I always think it’s best to choose flowers with lots of detail; these had fantastic shape and plenty of fine detail.
The best way to capture close-ups is with a dedicated ‘macro’ lens. They’re special because they allow you to photograph subjects at up to life size straight onto your camera’s sensor, so when you enlarge your photos on a computer, a 5p coin could be the size of a small football. You don’t always need such dedicated kit because a standard 18-55mm zoom lens can get close. I’d also recommend focusing manually to ensure that you get the point of focus spot on.
Pick a background
My first step was to print a photo. More specifically, an out-of-focus one that I accidentally took a few weeks ago and forgot to delete – the reason being that the blurry colours will make a good background. You could do the same, choose a plain coloured wall or buy some coloured paper.
Arrange the flowers
Either in a vase or a heavy glass, cut your flowers down to a size that won’t tip over. You can add extra weight by part-filling the glass with water. Move the whole lot close to a window, pick a flower to photograph and adjust the others around it. It’s good to have the main one a little higher than the rest, to separate it.
Set up your camera
Use a tripod to hold your camera still, and then choose the lowest ISO option to give the highest quality. Choose the aperture-priority (Av or A) shooting mode, select the widest aperture your lens allows (the smallest f/number), and the self-timer mode as well – check your manual if you’re not sure how to find it.
Align the background
If your DSLR has Live View, switch it on for a live image of what the camera sees on the rear LCD. Otherwise, compose through the viewfinder. Stick the background of your choice to the wall in the right place behind the flowers, then focus on the centre of your chosen flower. Try a variety of different compositions.
Using a standard zoom
Some standard zooms can get close to subjects, if not quite as close as a macro lens can – or with quite so large a maximum aperture. For this version of the shot, above, I used a standard zoom at 50mm and f/5.6, the widest that most common standard zoom lenses will go to. As you can see, the background is still nicely blurred despite not having access to wide apertures like f/2.8. Whatever your lens, the key is getting as close as it will allow you to get, so it’s up to you as to whether you like macro photography enough to buy a specialist lens.
Taken from the April 2011 issue of DSLR magazine