• Susan Phelps

How to photograph flowers

5 top tips

For those of us who are flower enthusiasts now is the time to get outside and delve into flower photography. If your camera has been gathering dust this winter, now is the perfect time to get yourself and your camera outside to enjoy the sunshine and the flowers and make some beautiful images! Before you head out with your camera here are my 5 top tips to taking better flower photos:

1) Using light

Overcast days are best because soft, even lighting is perfectly suited for creative flower photography. Soft lighting preserves the natural colour and texture of the petals so that the true beauty of the flower is captured complimenting the delicacy of the blooms with no shadows or harsh bright spots which makes it easier to get a good exposure. Direct sunlight can be too harsh for flower photography, creating burnt-out colours and harsh shadows which removes the delicate nature of your flowers.

This image was captured on a very grey, drizzly day with just enough soft diffused light to create this ethereal photo of a double hellebore with a neat row of droplets along the petal edge, adding interest and depth to the image.

Image copyright Susan Phelps 2020

2) Background distractions

Pay close attention to the background that is behind your flowers. Choose a background that adds to the image, but avoid anything that distracts or draws attention away from your subject. If the background does have distracting objects or clutter, try to change your position or the angle of your camera to reduce or eliminate it completely.

Sometimes, I actually see the background first and if that is what catches my eye, I then select a subject to contrast or compliment it.

This beautiful Snakeshead Fritillary was photographed at RHS Wisley, Surrey. It involved lying down on a very wet floor in the early morning light. I was able to capture the soft bokeh background that you see here by using selective focus on an isolated bloom.

Image copyright Susan Phelps 2019

3) Fill the frame

Filling the frame with your subject helps to eliminate anything in the background that could detract from your subject. As you move in closer you’ll be amazed at the intricate detail and patterns that you will see. You can either use a telephoto lens and zoom in to the flower or use a dedicated macro lens which has the ability to focus on objects that are very close to the end of the lens.

Shallow depth of field is when only part of the image is sharp and the rest is soft and out-of-focus. You can achieve this by using a wide aperture (low aperture number) such as f/4 or f/2.8

Focussing can sometimes be a challenge when shooting close up. There are times when your camera will struggle to focus, you can disable your camera’s autofocus and switch to manual (or use the switch on some lenses MA/A) This will prevent your lens "focus hunting".

If you need to reduce camera shake use a tripod or rest your camera on a sturdy surface, such as a low wall and either use a shutter release or the self timer function on your camera. Another tip to stabilise close up shots is to be comfortable, to help you stay clean and dry while shooting, bring a rag or an old yoga mat you can lay on.

An example of overcast, soft lighting and filling the frame, simply taken in my back garden.

Image copyright Susan Phelps 2019

4) Composition

Learn to see the distractions that pull your eye away from your subject, and eliminate or minimise them. Changing your angle of view, moving in closer, using a larger aperture to blur elements that distract, or a smaller aperture to include a complimentary background. Most of my flower photos are shot with wide apertures to reduce depth of field and simplify the subject. Using selective focus s a great way to draw attention to one area of your composition. Move around and try some different angles for more interesting images.

"Windflower" Spring Anemone caught on a perfectly still day, once again, laying on a wet, damp grassy bank!

Image copyright Susan Phelps 2020

5) Learn to “see”

As with all photography, beautiful and successful flower images begin with learning to see. Really look at your subject, from all possible angles. Lay down on your tummy and look up to see the underside of the flower. Sometimes this is the most beautiful part of a flower, and often overlooked. Crouch down to see the blooms from sideways, get an "arial" view by standing over the flower and shooting downwards. Really study your subject and shoot it from different angles, choosing the point of view that is most pleasing to you. I can sometimes spend an hour with just one flower!

Image copyright: Susan Phelps 2019


Shooting flowers is extremely satisfying and because they’re static subjects, you can always keep shooting if you’re not satisfied with your first attempts. Try these macro flower photography tips next time you go out and once you’ve taken those amazing flower photographs, consider printing them and hanging them on your wall! Join my facebook group "Creative flower photography" and share your pictures or upload to Intstagram and tag me @susanphelpsphotos - lets share some creative, beautiful, natural joy!

Professional Photographer based in Wokingham, Berkshire.


Flowers, Fine Art, Nature, Portrait, Product and Branding Photography services 

Tel: 0782 4556822


All photographs are copyright © 2020 Susan Phelps. Images from this site may not be reproduced without permission