A Beginner’s Guide to Abstract Flower Photography
Abstract flower photography can stop you in your tracks. But unfortunately, when it comes to abstract flower photography, you probably don’t know where to start. What equipment do you need? What techniques do you use?
The world of abstract flower photography can seem distant and difficult.
Actually, it is no harder than any other genre of photography. It can be a lot more rewarding, though. You just need to know how to get started.
In this tutorial, you’ll learn the fundamentals of abstract flower photography. You’ll learn about the required equipment, as well as several key techniques for getting powerful abstract images. When you finish, you’ll be ready to go out and start applying these tips immediately.
Sound good? Read on.
What is abstract flower photography?
I’m going to define abstract flower photography simply as this – photographing flowers in a way that the viewer doesn’t immediately see the flower.
That is, an abstract floral focuses not so much on the flower itself, but on parts of the flower: the curve of the petals, the color of the flower center, the play of light on the stamens.
To do powerful abstract flower photography, you have to stop thinking in terms of flowers, and start thinking in terms of shape, color, and light. This isn’t complicated. It’s easy to do, once you get the hang of it. The tips I share below will help you to do just that, so keep reading.
To get beautiful abstract flower images, you need two things: a camera and a macro lens.
So what lens do you need?
Any sort of macro lens will do. I’ve taken excellent abstract flower images with cheap, sub-300 dollar lenses. I’ve also used my much more expensive Canon 100mm f/2.8L lens.
The thing is, abstract flower photography isn’t really about sharpness and perfectly rendered detail. It’s about composition, light and color.
A tip worth mentioning is that the shorter the focal length of a macro lens, the closer you need to be to your subject to get life-size images. So, for instance, 60mm macro lenses can be a problem when you’re trying to get a close-up of a rose and you keep casting your shadow on the petals by accident.
You may have also heard that for abstract flower photography you need a tripod.
I would disagree. I don’t use a tripod for abstract flower photography, myself because I find that it’s too limiting. I need to explore the flower through the lens, change my composition, take a few photographs, and change my composition again. You can’t do that with a tripod.
Tip 1: Shoot on cloudy days
If you’ve done natural light macro photography before, you’ll know that you can get beautiful macro photographs at a few different times of the day. First, when it’s cloudy. Second, during the golden hours: just after sunrise and just before sunset.
For abstract photography, I recommend that you only shoot on cloudy days.
On cloudy days, the light is even, resulting in colorful, deeply saturated images. And in abstract photography, color is key. In fact, out of all the images featured in this article, all but one were taken on a cloudy day.
Once you become a more experienced abstract flower photographer, you can start to experiment with other types of light. But until then, stick to cloudy days. Your results will speak for themselves.
Tip 2: Get close. Really, really close!
In abstract flower photography, you cannot just take a snapshot of your subject. Your goal must be to show the viewer something new, something unexpected.
The way to do this is to get close. Really, really close.
As I said above, you must think in terms of shapes, color, and light. The way to start is to magnify your subject.
Take that macro lens and crank it up to its highest magnification setting (which should be 1:1, if you have a true macro lens). Then get close to a flower. Look through the viewfinder of your camera, and just move the lens around.
What do you see?
You probably won’t immediately notice a stunning composition. I spend a lot of time looking through my lens without taking any pictures. There’s a lot of experimentation involved, and that’s okay. Which brings us to Tip 3…
Tip 3: Use a shallow depth of field
The depth of field is the amount of an image that is actually in focus.
Images with only a small amount of the subject in focus have a shallow depth of field. Images with a large amount of the subject in focus have a deep depth of field.
Depth of field is controlled by your camera’s aperture setting, also known as an f-stop. A low f-stop (f/1.4 to f/5.6) gives you a nice, shallow depth of field.
On most cameras, you will be able to choose your f-stop. For abstract flower photography, I usually keep it in the f/2.8-3.5 range but feel free to experiment a bit depending on your creative vision. Just keep that depth of field nice and shallow.
Why do I recommend having so little of the image in focus?
By using a shallow depth of field, you emphasize those elements and take the focus off the flower itself. You shift the focus to the shape of the flower, the color of it, and the light falling on the flower.
This is what I focus on in my final tip.
Tip 4: Look at the shape of the flower
As I mentioned above, it’s essential that you think about light, color, and shape.
Out of these three elements, I think that shape is most important in abstract flower photography. This is because flowers have naturally interesting shapes: sinuous curves, perfect circles, radiating lines.
The photographs are there. You just have to find them.
For instance, flowers tend to have such beautiful, soft petals. You can use these to your advantage in your photography. Think about the petals, not as parts of a flower, but as twisting lines. Try to see these shapes moving about through the flower.
Carefully set up a composition that uses these lines. Keep it simple—one or two lines is all you need.
Only once you’ve composed deliberately, keeping the shape of the flower at the forefront of your mind, should you take the image.
Capturing beautiful abstract photographs can be an intensely rewarding experience.
Make sure you have the right equipment. Then, if you shoot on cloudy days, get super close, use a shallow depth of field and, above all, think in terms of the flower’s shape, you’ll be well on your way to taking stunning abstract flower photographs.
Have any more tips for abstract flower photography? Share them in the comments!