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Photographing Australian Plants

Composing a photo — some thoughts for flower photography

There are no 'right' or 'wrong' methods for composing a flower photo, it largely depends on the purpose for taking the photo.

The Australian Plant Image Index, in the main, has concentrated on building up a collection of photos that will help people in their identification of plants.
The photos have been used extensively for the Flora of Australia and the Atlas of Living Australia.
It has not concentrated on 'art photography' but rather the scientific documentation of correctly identified plants.

Usually it takes at least two photos to capture the 'essence' of a particular plant: a photo of the plant as a whole, and the details of the flower.

We have endeavoured to show this in our Growing Native Plants web articles, like the two photos for Boronia subulifolia below.

Boronia subulifolia Boronia subulifolia

If you are taking a cluster of flowers, how many can you get in focus ?

Getting one single flower in focus should be easy with modern cameras, SLR cameras have markers to show what the camera is focusing on.

Getting two flowers in sharp focus requires moving the camera (or plant) until two flowers are equal distances from the front of the lens (above).

However there is usually a spot to position the camera where three flowers are in sharp focus, each the same distance from the front of the lens.

3 flowers focus
Goodenia 3 flowers focus
Goodenia saccata, three flowers in focus   (click to enlarge)

3 flowers

Often getting three flowers in focus enables you to show a 'full-frontal' and 'profile' of the flower to add more information.

Daviesia major
Daviesia major – two flowers and one fruit in focus
(click to enlarge)

2 flowers + 1 fruit

Daviesia major

In this case, instead of getting 3 flowers in focus, we have 2 flowers and one fruit.

In some plant groups the fruit is an important diagnostic feature. Getting both flowers and fruit in focus on the same photo is often very useful.

Aiming high, or low

You can give an impression of whether your plant is tall or not by photographing tall flowers against the blue sky:

Helianthus annuus looking down
The weed Helianthus annuus can be quite tall, over 2.5 metres, but you get no indication of this from the above photo. (click to enlarge)

    Helianthus annuus looking up
    The same plant of Helianthus annuus photographed against the sky gives an indication that the plant is quite tall. (click to enlarge)

Banksia grandis
Banksia grandis   (click to enlarge)

Many banksias are small shrubs, but when you look at the photo at the left, taken upwards against the sky, you immediately have the impression that this banksia is a sizable shrub or tree.

Taking photos of plants from unusual angles can add to the interest of the photo, and convey more information about the habitat.

Dysphania kalpari
This photo of Dysphania kalpari shows the plant and its habit.
(60 mm macro lens)   (click to enlarge)
Dysphania kalpari
But this photo of Dysphania kalpari, taken from a very low angle, lying on the ground with a wide angle lens, conveys more information about its habitat.
(24 mm wide-angle lens)   (click to enlarge)

Acaena novae-zelandiae
A very conventional macro photo of the Bidgee-widgee burr Acaena novae-zelandiae in fruit. The shape of the leaves are clear, good for identifying the plant.

Acaena novae-zelandiae
Using a wide-angle lens (24 mm) with a little back-lighting taken from a very low angle adds drama to this photo of Acaena novae-zelandiae. (click to enlarge)




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