Selective lighting in botanical photography

“If you want something to look interesting, don’t light all of it.”  John Loengard

In a previous post, Spring Musings, I mentioned selective lighting and darkening the background as my favorite tricks to make a flower picture look a little different. I explained how I do it in the field with the help of a speed light. Under “Tips” below, I elaborate on how I do a similar thing at home. The two photographs above are welcome additions to my Chloroplast portfolio.

Wood Sorrel (Oxalis) flowers appear in the beginning of the spring in the Central Valley of California and by mid April they are mostly gone. Both the flower and the leaf are edible and can be consumed in small quantities, for example as a spice in salads. The three leaves of the plant, also referred to as Shamrocks, have been associated with St. Patrick: it is believed that he used these leaves to explain the Holy Trinity to the people in Ireland. In Brazil, it is believed that an Oxalis with four leaves (rare find) will bring you luck.

I have yellow Wood Sorrels in my garden and every spring I bring a few flowers inside for some photography. They are very fragile, and do not last long after they are cut.

Equipment: Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 105mm F2.8G,  tripod, black cardboard for background, dark cards or anything to subtract light, a reflector to bounce light;

Settings: f/18, 2.5s, ISO 100;

Tips: In the picture below I show a lazy and cheap way to take these kinds of photographs. First, I placed my camera in spot metering to get the correct exposure for the part of the flower that I wanted in the spotlight. Second, I made sure that I had only one main light source in my room (a side window). Third, I placed the flowers on a black cardboard and used a black belt and some random objects to subtract light (shade) from two (the ones against the background) of the four flowers. To avoid completely dark areas on the subject, I used the back of an old print to bounce a little light back on to my flowers. The rest was done in post. I used a tripod, and the camera is pointing down on the subject.   

Published by Alessandra Chaves

Photographer with a preference for nature photography in black and white and other abstractions.

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