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Photographing Spring Flowers

Photographers, like everyone else, can't wait to see the first signs of spring. Each spring, we grab our cameras to capture the first crocuses that pop up. But how do you catch those really eye-popping flower photos?

At the Arlington Camera Club, not only do we have some talented photographers, but we're lucky enough to have a friend of the club who is also a college instructor. Lou Nettelhorst, an award winning photographer who teaches at the College of Lake County, has shared some of his easy photo tips with me. And some of my fellow club members have agreed to share their photos.

First of all, you can take great flower photos with an ordinary point and shoot camera. Fancy equipment isn't always needed, but a steady hand (or a tripod) is. The most stunning flower photos aren't taken in bright sunlight. Bright sun can cast harsh shadows and hot spots on your flowers. And a really bright background detracts from your subject. As Lou has reminded me, concentrate on these tips: Background, Edges, Lighting and Subject – B-E-L-S for short.

First, let’s find our Subject – that flower that just poked its head up. Think about what the subject is and where you place it in the picture. Does it look best from straight above or do you want to get down low and get really close to your subject? Use the "macro" button on your camera to get close focus (it usually has a picture of a flower on it). If you’re not sure how to use the macro feature on your camera, it may be time to get out the instruction manual. If you are hand-holding your camera, a small movement can bring your subject out of focus. If you have one, use a tripod. It will help keep your subject in focus.

Next we’ll tackle Lighting. Think about what light best compliments your photo. Really nice flower photos are often taken on cloudy days when the light is even. If you find it a little too sunny, try to photograph flowers in a shady spot or make your own shade. A flash is probably too harsh, but a flashlight might be just right.

Now we’ve got even light, and a good subject in focus. How can the Background be so important? Does it add to or take away from your subject? A bright background can take your eye away from the subject. And a crisp, in-focus background will compete with your subject. Getting really close with your flower in focus will normally make your background blurred and out of focus - a very desirable feature.

I’ll admit, getting just the perfect light on your flower and not too much light on the background can be tricky. You can try shading the background and then shining a little light on the flower.

So now you’ve got a nicely lit flower in your view finder. Have you given the flower enough room in your frame? Is it facing into your frame or is it up against the edges? This is another of Lou’s tips – Edges. Before you snap the shutter remember to give your subject a little breathing room and don’t crowd the edges. Oh, and what happens when the wind blows and throws it all out of focus or blows the flower right out of the frame? You can't control the wind, but try to wait until the air is still to shoot your photo. For the most dedicated, there are all kinds of gadgets that block the wind and keep delicate flowers still.

Our contributing photographers have given us some wonderful images of flowers. In each image, think again about Lou’s tips: B-E-L-S. How did each image make the best use of the Background, Edges, Lighting and Subject? You’ll get photos with the most impact when you master all four of these tips.

The Arlington Camera Club meets the first and third Wednesdays of each month at the Christian Church of Arlington Heights. For more information visit You may also want to visit a local camera club, or take a class. Lou Nettelhorst can be found at and instruction is offered at the College of Lake County or privately.

Bob Reynolds, Arlington Camera Club

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1 comment

  1. Some pleasant, attractive images, but a lot of them have exposure/white balance issues, and too many have the subject plastered right in the middle of the frame, not the strongest composition. The title and intro of this implies that it’s going to show how to capture really good flower photos, so given that, the examples should be of somewhat better quality than this.

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