Learn how to take better photos of succulents and other flowers no matter your skill level. You'll also find out how to take better photos in harsh lighting too which is great for travel photography!
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I am so excited about today's Succulent Saturday! It's something I'm very passionate about (in addition to succulents)… Photography! I've found that a lot of gardeners and succulent lovers are also photography enthusiasts. It makes sense because succulents are so photogenic. But, not all photos turn out the way you'd like.
So, today I want to share three tips for photographing succulents (and other flowers) and also tell you about an amazing class just about photographing flowers.
Ready for the first tip?
Get in close
Succulents have such amazing geometric forms and sometimes just crazy textures and colors. Try getting in nice and close to capture some of those details. For this first one, I love the subtle color variations and the pink tips on the leaves. There's so much repetition with the shapes of the leaves too. I couldn't convey that very well from a distance.
This next succulent plant is just crazy. Again, from far away you wouldn't be able tell what's going on. Maybe you can't up close either 🙂
Find the best light
I've been to several gardens in the last few months and not at ideal times of day. Usually I've been there in the middle of the day with full sun. While this harsh lighting is often unavoidable, you can make it work for you.
Try to find an angle where the light is hitting your flower from the side or behind. This will involve moving yourself and the camera since you can't move the sun.
I didn't have the right succulent examples to show for this one, so I took a few photos in my aunt's gorgeous garden. I was shooting at 4:00 PM and afternoon light is really harsh. Here is an example of this flower with front, side and back lighting.
First, realize that full sun is going to give you bright photos with lots of contrast. You just need to use it to your advantage. In the first photo, the sun is hitting the flowers straight on. There isn't very much definition in the leaves and there are really hard shadows on some of them. It's not particularly interesting and seems a little blinding. Everything in this image is almost the same brightness so it's hard to focus on one thing.
For the second photo I moved around the flower 90 degrees. Here, the sun is coming from my left rather than behind me. Moving to this other view of the flower gives the light a much softer feel and the plant is better defined.
The flower in the third photo is back lit, so I am facing the sun. You have to be careful not to get the sun directly in your lens for this type of shot, but it often produces really pretty results. The light is soft on most of the plant but the light shining through the leaves provides nice definition. The light in the background helps the plant stand out.
You can also try finding succulents that are naturally shaded or in softer light like this one.
Try moving around the plants to see where you can get the best lighting. The beauty of digital photography is you can take photos from various angles and see what you like best!
Use a diffusion panel
This may seem like a complicated thing, but especially for close up succulent photography, a diffusion panel can be your best friend. I have this 24×36″ sized panel and I love it! It folds up small so I can put it in my diaper bag (or camera backpack if my cute baby isn't with me). I can also easily hold it myself while I'm taking a picture. The great thing about flowers is they don't move much. So you can take the time to use a diffuser.
So, now you might be asking how and why you'd use a diffusion panel (or maybe what it is). Sometimes you can't move to change the direction of the light or you like a particular view of a succulent but the lighting is too harsh.
You can place the diffusion panel between the sun and the succulent and it diffuses or softens the light by creating a light shadow. I really love the look of bright sunlight through a diffuser.
If you're lucky enough to have a photo assistant (or amazing sister photo assistant in my case) you can have them hold the diffusion panel for you, but if you get small one you can hold it yourself.
Here's what it looks like in action (the panel I'm using here is actually a 40×60″ panel and cannot generally be held by the same person taking the photo):
And here's what the photo I ended up with:
While this was side/back lit, the shadows were still to harsh for my liking. Using the diffusion panel softened the light and provided a nice glow to the plants.
So, now you have a few things to think about the next time you're photographing succulents! Also, if you really want to improve your flower photography skills, I highly recommend taking the Photographing Flowers class on Craftsy.
I signed up for the class a couple weeks ago. I've been watching a video or two each day and have really enjoyed it. The teacher does a great job simplifying things for beginners, but also provides more in-depth techniques and insights.
The great thing about taking this class on Craftsy is that you can access the class for the rest of your life! You can go through the course, practice some techniques, and then come back and re-watch it to learn even more.
I honestly love the Craftsy platform for classes. They have tons of classes on photography as well as a variety of other subject.
If you haven't already, you should also check out Debra Lee Baldwin's Stunning Succulent Arrangements class. It is also filled with great tips and ideas for working with succulents.
I hope this Succulent Saturday has been useful to you! Photography is something that I love as much as succulents, so I want to help you love it too! Now, go photograph some succulents yourself! Try getting up close and personal, shooting from a different angle, or using a diffusion panel to see if you can get a better photo.