OK – I am not pretending to be a good photographer – my photography friends wouldn’t even bother rolling their eyes. However, last year I picked up a few tips for taking ‘better’ flower shots in my efforts to support Canberra Nature Map. Here are a few iPhone-centric options to help you take better photos (of small flowers that is, or any other small things)…
LIGHT: photographers reckon early morning and late afternoon are the best times to take photos. I don’t do the mornings, but the afternoon works well. Avoid clear sunshine in the middle of the day – softer light provided by fog or overcast conditions at anytime makes it easier to capture better images.
WIND: if it is very windy don’t bother, save your time for still conditions. If you absolutely have to take a shot, shield the flower with your body – it might help. Small movements at macro-scale make big differences.
PRESENTATION: temporarily move to the side anything in the image you don’t want in there (I dont recommend removing or destroying any plant matter for this). Think about the background of the image to provide contrast or landscape and habitat perspectives. Present the flower like a pollinator might see it, and take images from different perspectives.
One of the best tips I have received, from @Bidgeewidgee, is to use the AE/AF Lock (auto-exposure, autofocus). This basically sets the focal point and exposure so that it is then up to you to move the camera in-and-out until the image is in focus. I find it is useful to set this lock (by holding your finger on the screen for several seconds) on something like your arm, at a distance of 5-10 cm, in a similar light to the flower of interest. This is very useful regardless of whether you have a fancy lens or not…
A Fancy Lens
In the Winter of 2015 I discovered the Olloclip. A very portable and cost-effective lens designed to clip onto the iPhone. There are a variety of types, but I picked up the macro lenses, with 7x, 14x and 21x lenses in one kit. They come attached to a lanyard and are easy to clip on and off the Iphone.
I found the smallest two – the 7x and 14 x – most effective, the 21x is just too close for most flowers, and the depth of focus is very shallow (i.e. it will only focus on a very small part of any flower, within an image).
Unfortunately I lost the 14x lens on Black Mountain photographing orchids, if anyone finds it let me know. At least it went contributing to a good cause…
I’m not one for carrying big cameras (or buying them!), I can highly recommend these to add a bunch of fun and reasonable quality to your flower photography.
While it is somewhat annoying when my daughter clogs the iPhone with hundreds of selfies taken with the “Burst Mode”, it is really useful for capturing the ‘best’ image of a flower, especially in conditions of light wind (again in heavier winds its not worth the time).
In light winds, I would typically take 10 images of each flower and weed-out the out-of-focus ones. Its interesting too, the pollinators you see when you look at the image later, and their movements across the flower.
Be still Jedi
Having the camera as still as possible is critical to success. Getting down on the ground, usually kneeling (check for rare plants first), and then propping the camera using your elbows is a good start. The walk-by photo just doesn’t work…