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Photographing Flowers In Your Home

With florists in the High Street, the profusion of garden centres and even supermarkets selling cut flowers there are still opportunities for the flower photographer to get in some detailed work and practice even if you don't have a garden or are unable due to season, weather or disability to be able to get out to the many Gardens Open to the Public.   All you need is good quality flowers, a few props and a mini indoor studio.

Flowers come in all types, shapes, varieties, sizes and colours. You can get coverage from single stem cut flowers, through to small plants that will fit in a window box or indoor pot plants, or others that will go into containers as well as in your garden. Even for the outdoors there is some form of flower available all year round. Transporting a container in from outdoors is both heavy and messy, so here we are going to concentrate on photographing the indoor pot plant or cut flowers you can get from florists or supermarkets.

Supermarkets generally sell bouquets of flowers usually arranged in some manner, and you have the opportunity to photograph the full set or to take it apart and do the individual stem. The quality that you get from your local supermarket will vary with the time of day you buy them and how long they have had them on display, but generally if you can buy bouquets that have a number of buds in them as well as those already in flower, you can photograph them at this stage and in a few days, have the opportunity to photograph them again when fully out. Choosing your bouquet could be difficult with all the different colours, some will have the flowers at different stages in their lifecycle in different bouquets, so it may be necessary to buy a couple of bouquets to get the combination that you require. Don't however get carried away and buy too many, unless you are going to photograph them over a number of days, you'll be surprised how long you can spend photographing flowers in all their combinations.

Florists also sell bouquets, but the main advantage with a florist is that you can buy single stems, and only need to buy what you need, when you need it. You can choose the best quality stem they have and be picky, buy those that you want to photograph, have the flexibility of building your own designed bouquet or getting the florist to do the design for you. If the florist is close to you, you can buy what you need for that particular photo shoot and can buy the best specimen in full flower. You can also ask the florist what each one you have chosen is called, remember to get both it's common name and it's official name, especially if you are expecting to get the photographs into publications, or picture libraries who usually want this information.

Treating cut flowers when you get them home

When you get cut flowers home you need them to look good for a reasonable amount of time. So I have found doing the following steps I have been able to keep cut flowers for 3-4 weeks. You do loose some along the way, they naturally go over but others that are in bud can last this long. Take the following steps and you should end up with flowers you can photograph a number of times over a period.

  • Take a clean vase and half fill it with water. If your bouquet came with a sachet of plant food, then mix this in.

  • Diagonally cut the bottom of the stem off about 2cm up. Use a good pair of cutters/scissors so that the stem doesn't get crushed or bruised.

  • Remove all foliage that is going to be below the water level. Left it will just wither and is of no use anyway.

  • Arrange in a suitable vase.

  • Place the vase in a position out of direct sunlight, away from draughts and heat sources.

When photographing them, even if doing single stems the answer is to keep them in water in between shots.

If they are still good after a week, then cut off a further 2cm diagonally, and any excess foliage below the new water line, remove any dead flowers, or petals from roses etc and replace the water, adding more plant food. You may need to change vases if the stems are now shorter than the rim of the vase you have been using. Repeat this task until you have had enough of them or they are completely gone over.

Some people if they don't have plant food use economy fizzy lemonade and water combined.


The term studio in the case of flower photography doesn't have to be a large open space, just enough room to set up the equipment required (see below) and for you to move about. If you don't have the obvious of a garden shed, garage or some other space that you can use then you can set up a temporary studio within your own living space. This could be a front room, conservatory, guest bedroom or any other space in your home. Unlike portrait photographers, who need a decent sized working area to get in people of all different sizes, flowers are small, so the amount of room required to set up your mini studio is not that great.

Kit/Equipment required

Which lens you decide to use will be down to your own choice, however you will find that a 60mm lens or setting a zoom at 60mm, which gives greater depth of field, will be ideal for indoor studio photography, particularly for doing flower displays. Larger lenses such as a 105mm would be okay for single stem and close ups of buds, flower heads, but for doing flower displays you would need a much larger working area/studio to get the correct depth of field. Zoom and prime lenses all have a closest working distance, and you may need a macro lens to get close enough to photograph flower heads or buds, I use both 60mm and 105mm macro lenses. Zoom lenses can be used, providing that you watch the minimum working distance. Besides your camera and lenses, you will also find the following useful:-

Tripod - for your camera. Useful when doing a large number of images where the subject needs to be in the same position as it fixes the camera in place. Also once your exposure has been set up, it will remain the same until you move or change something.

Lights - ideally would be flash lights, which can be two or more separate flash units or studio lights or even just fixed lights, like Cool-Lite's,  targeted on the subject.

Lighting Stands - to hold the flash lights, reflectors etc. These are very similar to tripods and have the ability to be raised and lowered to the required height.

Light Cube - these come in different sizes and types, see Looking at Light Cubes for more on this. The advantage of a light cube is that the white sides can be used as a diffuser, generally they also come with coloured backgrounds as well as both black and white.

Reflectors - another way of moving light about, particularly if multiple flash units are not available. You can use them to redirect the light source into shadow areas. See our article on Using Reflectors.

Grey Card - for setting white balance.

Flash metre - when using studio flash or fixed lighting you can use a flash metre to measure the amount of light on the subject for the ISO setting you are using. The reading gives you the aperture (f stop) you need to set the camera at for the speed you want. If you don't have a flash metre it is not essential as you can work it out for yourself by using the Flash Guide Numbers on your flash unit. If you are using the Nikon creative lighting system, your camera and flash can work out the exposure without the need for a flash metre.

Optional Wireless Transmitter - used between camera and flash lights to avoid cables running everywhere - encourages manoeuvrability on the part of the photographer.

Optional tethered or wireless operation with a computer allowing pictures as taken to appear on the computer and often for camera settings to be changed from the computer.

As well as the photographic equipment needed to run an indoor flower studio you will also need some props. These props will be used to enhance your images by allowing different background colours, having objects to support them like vases or for single stems some form of gripper/holder, alternatively if creating still life images then you may want to include more than just flowers, like fruit, objects etc.


Backgrounds - if you are using a Light Cube then it is likely that it came with at least 3 colour backgrounds. Light cubes are usually white and the backgrounds supplied are usually kept in place with velcro spots. If you are not using a light cube then you could use coloured card, I find coloured  mountboard used by framers is quite good, it's thicker than normal card and can be stood up with limited support. You can get it in different colours from a hobby shop or artists supply shop in most high streets. Alternatively you could use colour material supported on stands, but make sure there are no creases in it as if included in the image it will distract from the centrepiece.

Vases - this is the obvious reciprocal to hold cut flowers. They can have two uses firstly to hold the flowers between shots, but also to include within the image. Vases come in various different forms, including glass, metal, pottery like terracotta and ceramics and wood. They can also come coloured or painted in plain colours from the pastel to the deep vibrant colour or can be highly decorative with too much going on, glass vases can be transparent, translucent and opaque. Take a look at our Selecting Vases article for some pointers on what to look out for when finding the right vase.

Holder/clamps/Gripers - useful when doing single stems. There are clamps specifically made for taking pictures of plants, such as the Novaflex Flower Stalk Holder which has a light spring for delicate items it also has a 1/4" thread socket which allows it to be attached to Novaflex's range of rods and flexible arms. Another option is the Wimberley Plant a flexible arm which can be clamped both to the item you are photographing and at the other end a solid item such as a tripod or table etc. You could also make some supports yourself using sticks, string, clips or elastic bands or you could use a 'Helping Hand' with magnifier which has adjustable joints and crocodile clamps to hold the subject still.


The Plamp Novaflex Flower Stalk Holder See Larger Image Helping Hands with magnifier



White Balance- When working indoors White Balance   and colour management is a major issue. Invariably you will be working in mixed light conditions, a combination of room lights, flash lights and light coming in from a window, and all these will have an impact on the colours of your subject. So use the PRE setting of your camera to set up the white balance for the conditions you are working in. You should only need to do this at the start, unless you change the lighting conditions as you go along or the light changes due to time of day, changing weather or moving items. See How to Set and use Pre for details on how to do this.

Composition - Even when working in a small space think about the composition of the final image. You could plan and draw some sketches of what you are trying to achieve before you start. Taking into consideration backgrounds, colours, other objects you want to include, the space you are working in. If using a Light Cube you will also have to take into account what can be achieved within the size of cube you have, this may restrict the size of arrangement you are using. From this you should end up with both a shooting list, and a list of flowers and objects required for the photo shoot. For composition ideas take a look at what is popular at the moment, close ups on flower heads, bright colours, table arrangements etc a look through magazines, greetings cards and local designer shops may give some inspiration.

Vases what to watch out for - The problem with a vase is that they are usually made of glass which is very reflective. They can also be made of metal or painted pottery which also has a reflective element. Glass vases can also be transparent, translucent and opaque and all of these qualities can pose some challenges for the photographer to overcome. With glass, metal or any reflective surface you have to watch out for what they are picking up, this could be:

  • the lights from the flash as they go off. To overcome this use a light cube and have the light come through the cloth, this diffused light gives a much softer and pleasing image anyway. If you don't have a light cube use brollies or a reflector so you can point the light away from the subject and bounce it back or a diffuser or softbox to shine the light through.

  • a reflection of you taking the picture. You could use a wireless remote or remote cord to set off the shutter which would allow you to stay some distance out of the way/away from the scene. If you don't have one of these you can use the self timer.

  • a reflection of the camera and lens. If you are using a light cube and a wireless remote or remote cord to get you out of the shot, but the camera is still being reflected, then use the front cover of the light cube over the camera and put the lens through the hole provided.

Single Stem Photography - this includes doing the whole stem including flower head, roses are good for this as they have detail on the stems as their leaves are large and can be arranged. Taking single stems can be done from above in which case you will need to lay it down on the background of choice and get your tripod over the image. You can use the light cube if you lay it with its opening pointing upwards, but you could use diffusers and reflectors to soften and bounce the light to where you want it. On the other hand you could use a clamp or some other means to stand the stem up in the light cube. Interior designers like close-up images of flowers, particularly roses and lilies, which have an element of texture to them and they usually come in dramatic colours like reds, pinks, yellows etc. and can be a bold statement when on a wall.

Water effects - adding water globules on flower heads or leaves can add depth, texture and a focal point to a close up. Water can also add sheen to something that may look a little dull. Used wisely and creatively it can look pleasing. One thing to watch out for with water globules is their reflective properties as close-ups could produce images of the camera or flash lights in the water. One way of adding the water is with a mist spray.

As well as photographing the full flower, flower head, bouquets, pot plants etc there are also opportunities to do some macro photography taking close up images of the stamen's, pollen, close ups on petals showing the veins and crispness of them, and therefore generate artistically created images. For more information on macro photography see our article Macro or Micro Photography, which looks at the advantages and effect of the different methods. You may need tubes in addition to a macro lens in order to get close enough.

I hope this has provided some inspiration and ideas for you to have a go at flower photography. Also if you want some help on what you can do with the photos now you have them then take a look at our article Uses of Garden Photography, as many of the outlets here are similar.

See Also:


By: Tracey Park Section: Gardens Section Key:
Page Ref: indoor_flower_photography Topic: Gardens Last Updated: 03/2011

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