Flowers are a perfect subject to photograph. The depth and variety of colours, shapes and contrasts are all there for the budding photographer to capture forever. However, what flower or flower arrangement are you going to choose for your subject? Do you choose a single sunflower against a contrasting background or is your choice more towards an artfully arranged bouquet of country garden flowers? Rather than an artificial studio setting, you may feel that an early morning outside shot with dewy flowers would do justice to your work. Whatever you choose, there are few simple measures you can adopt to give you that WOW shot that is going to sell quickly.
Getting that perfect shot
When it comes to camera equipment, I would recommend a DSLR camera so that you can use a wide angle lens for glorious floral landscapes, then change to a standard 50mm lens for really sharp shots, or being able to change to a macro lens which gives spectacularly close up photos. A tripod is necessary in a lot of instances when you photograph flowers, either because of wide aperture, low shutter speed shots or when shooting with a macro lens. A tripod also gives you time to compose your photo, and if you choose a tripod with splayed legs, you can shoot really close to ground level for different perspective shots. Adding a reflector can enhance those outdoor shots where a little more detail is required in the shadows. In the studio, using moderated lighting such as with soft boxes to provide a softer more diffused lighting as opposed to stark, direct flash light.
Set ISO to the lowest setting of 100 or 200 to reduce noise elements in your photo. Shoot in RAW as opposed to a JPEG format so that you have the maximum amount of picture information to work with. Set White Balance to auto or use a grey card to determine the correct white balance. Use small apertures to maximize depth of field, and use wide apertures to blur a background, allowing your image to really stand out.
Use the rule of thirds to produce a professional looking photograph, as opposed to having your subject in the centre of the photo which can make the result look boring. Use both horizontal and vertical formats when composing your shot. Tall plants look great in a vertical format while wide plants are more suited to a horizontal view. It's worth noting that there are more vertical shots in magazines, so be prepared to use both formats. While not strictly a factor in composition, adding a few drops of water from a spray bottle gives that morning dew freshness look to your photo.
As in all forms of photography, sharp focus is the key to achieving great results. In macro photography of flowers, because the depth of field is so small, one or two millimeters can make all the difference as to whether your flower subject is completely in focus or only part of it. If outside, choose early morning, not only for the "golden hour" but also because there are fewer breezes at this time of day to spoil your ability to achieve pin point focus. If you want to avoid the possibility of wind movement spoiling your shot, then consider a studio shot where you can control the environment. I often choose manual focus with live view, using the zoom control to close right in on the detail and of course, with the camera on a tripod. With autofocus, there is a tendency for the camera to "hunt' and you may have difficulty finding a focus point. I regularly use an adapter rail between the tripod and the camera where I can use two sliders to provide fine movement control in two planes. Sometimes an abstract quality can be produced by going in really close and focusing on say the stamens or the texture or pattern of the flower. With your camera mounted on a tripod you should then attach a cable release or use a remote shutter release. This enables you to fire the shutter without risking camera movement as a result of you pressing down on the shutter release button.
Angle of view
Some flowers are much more interesting from a different angle of view than the typical straight on view, because of their size, shape, colours and patterns. Whatever makes the shot more interesting will dictate at what angle to shoot from. Try shooting from below for a change.
Selling your photos to stock photo sites
Selling your photos involves a few factors that you need to take into consideration. First of all, research the stock photo sites to gauge what photo subjects are in demand and also what the rate of payment is per image downloaded.
Which Stock photo sites?
Here are some of the more popular stock photo agency sites for you to consider. Dreamstime pays out on average $1 per image, depending on the size of the image that is downloaded. You can also make an extra 10% if you choose to sell any images exclusively through Dreamstime. There is also the Shutterstock site which only pays out about 25 cents per download, but it does have a large member base. IStockphoto is also a very popular stock photo agency with a lot of website traffic. Submitting your image to BigStockPhoto can make between 50 cents to $3 per download. There are some conditions to be met with some of these agencies, so it is as well to be prepared.
Submitting images to these sites
Here are some tips you might find useful when submitting you images to stock photo web sites:
- Find out the scientific or Latin name of the flower, as well as its common name. Include the name in keywords to assist with searches. This helps if you want your images in magazines or books.
- Check out an agency's list of image requirements. There is usually a link on their site.
- Stock photo agency sites want clean and simple images and no artwork, unless required.
- Shoot lots of images of different flowers. The more you submit to agencies, the more chance you have of making money. You can submit the same image to more than one agency because they have different customer bases and one agency may accept your image, while other agencies may not.
- Shoot images in as high a resolution as possible. Agencies are often looking for images as large as 5 - 10 Megapixels.
- Set your ISO to the lowest number when taking the image to avoid noise. Any noise in the photo will cause the agency to reject your photo.
- When taking your shot, allow some space around the subject so that agencies can add text if they wish.
- Don't get put off by rejections. Often the agencies will provide you with a reason for the rejection, e.g. they have enough of this type of image.