Photographing Flowers, Part 3: Lighting

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Flower at Lew Gardens
Now that we've looked at necessary equipment and strategies for composition, let's consider lighting.  Lighting can be a significant challenge in all forms of outdoor photography, but thankfully in closeup photographs of flowers, it's one challenge where you can exert a great deal of control.   Cloudy days are your best friend; they often create the ideal lighting situation for flowers.  If you happen to have a slight drizzle, even better.  I love flower photos with water drops.  I usually bring plastic bags with me and cover my camera with them when shooting in a slight drizzle.  Early morning hours are also great for photography, before the sun shines directly on the flowers.  Nothing beats flower photography on an early, still quiet morning, with nothing to hear but the birds chirping and the shutter tripping.

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Using a Diffuser to Photograph 
Once the sun rises and shines on your flowers, everything changes.  The heat from the sun excites the air, which in turn creates a slight breeze.  And then there's those reflections and shadows to contend with.  A polarizing (CP) filter will go a long way to help here, but even a CP filter can leave too many shadows in certain conditions.  Because closeup photos of flowers often have a small area in the foreground and background, you can frequently even out the lighting of the whole scene with a diffuser.  I've found that using a diffuser can often restore those ideal lighting conditions I like so much.  If  you don't believe me, try it just once, and use a white umbrella for a diffuser if you don't have one or want to spend the money on one.  I suspect you won't go back.

Iris with Diffuser
At the same time, consider using high contrast lighting situations to your advantage as well.  You can use reflectors to shine sunlight on shadowy parts of your image to make your lighting more even.  If you can find a scene where sunlight is shining on a flower leaving the rest of the scene in shadow (as in the first image above), you can set your camera to spot meter, and expose for the flower, allowing the rest of the photo to fade toward black. 

I'm a Sucker for Waterdrops