Want to improve your flower photography? Start by picking your subject and getting in close

Many of our subscribers wanted to know if there are specific exercises, or learning tools, they can use to improve their flower photography. I asked Tony Sweet if he has any favorites.

Tony’s reply…

There’s no such thing as too close in flower photography

Tony Sweet: Sure. Get close to the subject. Just get as close as you can. It’s really important, especially with telephoto or macro lenses, to realize the close focusing distance of that lens. How close can you focus with it?
Because at that point it’s going to be your greatest fall off of your background. That’s number one, get very close, very close to your subject. That way your background will be softer.

I guess the next thing would be to get your telephoto lens (200 mm, 300 mm, whatever you have) and see how close you can get to a group of flowers or a bunch of flowers with that.

If you have the ability or the equipment to add a close up filter or an extension tube, that would be a tremendous aid.

The one that we use is the Canon 500D close-up filter. This filter enables my lens to focus 14 inches rather than 4 feet. It really increases that close focusing distance.

That will be a great aid in giving you a very soft background, which is the ultimate goal.
Next, try an alternative lens, like a Lensbaby, or maybe to get a soft effect, get a UV filter, which are fairly worthless unless you have a good one. They’re just pieces of glass. Just get an old one and maybe spritz some hair spritzer on it to soften that up. Use that as a soft focus filter.

That worked extremely well.

Another exercise would be to make it a point to get low to the ground if you can. Shoot the flower from the side, rather than straight from the top: from the side or from under it. That’s a whole new world.
Audri Lanford: That’s great, thanks for these four exercises.
We’ve talked about so much stuff today. You have just given our listeners so much to think about and to try. Me, as well. I’m excited.

What’s the one thing of everything we’ve talked about, that you most want people to remember from today’s interview that will make the biggest difference in their flower photography?

Tony Sweet: Do not photograph flowers in bright sunlight.
Audri Lanford: [laughs] Sounds familiar. You’ve given us a wealth of great advice and some great things to try to improve our flower photography. If people want to learn more about what you offer, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Tony Sweet: We’ve been so lucky to be in so many different venues. The website isTonysweet.com. I’ve got a blog that I make it a point to keep up on once or twice a day with a maybe one or two day break. But it’s always very current and people can see what we’re doing, what our students are doing and what’s happening in the word of being a freelance photographer.

I’ve got three books out. We just released a DVD, which is available right now — it came out recently. BetterPhoto.com — I am one of the many photographers on there and many of them are tremendous, as you know.
Audri Lanford: I just have to add that I so highly recommend your book, “Fine Art Flower Photography” — it is really amazing and it’s why I wanted to do this interview (in addition to the class). I look at your book whenever I want to be inspired to take better photographs of flowers.

Thanks so much Tony. I feel like you’ve really given our listeners so much great stuff in terms of things that can make a big difference in their flower photography.

Tony Sweet: Audri, it’s been delightful. And I appreciate the opportunity to do this. It’s always fun to talk about photography.

In conclusion

I had such a wonderful time interviewing Tony Sweet. His advice and tips about flower photography are invaluable. His generosity in sharing his expertise with us is much appreciated. If you haven’t tried flower photography because you thought you couldn’t do it, try the tips you’ve learned here.