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Macro photo of a bright purple flower with water droplets clinging to the petals Macro photo of a bright purple flower with water droplets clinging to the petals
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"Subject placement is key to creating a balanced and interesting look to your flower image."

Composition: It's All in How You See It

Updated: April 26, 2018|Published: June 22, 2016

Visualizing is the beginning of dealing with the composition of your botanical image. There are some simple guidelines for creating a pleasing photograph, which we will discuss here in this article.

Subject placement is key to creating a balanced and interesting look to your flower image. Instead of placing your flower as a bull’s eye right in the middle of the frame, you could visualize a tic-tac-toe board. Imagine putting the subject on the point where two of the lines intersect. Considering the Rule of Thirds, your flower would not be in the middle, but would be either to the side or on the top or bottom of the frame. This allows your eye to travel around the rectangular area of the image without getting stuck on the center.

With this technique, you are able to also deal with two important issues with flowers. By positioning the flower to the left side of the frame, you are creating an area that does not include any detail info, thus creating what is known as negative space. This pulls the focus of the viewer right to the main subject, your flower. This allows your flower “gaze space.” Just as in a portrait of a person who is looking to the right or left side of the frame, you give the flower a place to look. A side benefit of this concept is that now you have a blank area in which to add text, perhaps info on the flower or the name of your slideshow.

In some portraits, the “rule” becomes a guideline that can be ignored. When you are photographing a single flower that is balanced on both sides, it begs to be cropped into a square, with the flower directly in the middle of the frame.

As with people, flowers have their best side. They may not complain about how they look, but we as photographers notice. When I approach a flower, I take the time to walk around the flower, to examine all sides of the flower, and record its best side. Your angle of view can change not only the look of the flower, but the relationship of the flower to its environment. By stooping down low, you can record the lily and include the trees, to show its surroundings. Because the backdrop of trees, I will always remember that I photographed this in Florida.

Instead of shooting straight down on the flower from above, the most typical way that people photograph water lilies, try a side view. Better yet, find a lily that is partially underwater and get down level to the flower to record it in the barrel.

There is an abundance of flowers to choose from when photographing. I often pick flowers that have a ballet-like movement, a bend to the side or leaves that flow gracefully through the image. That form is restful to the eye. Not all flowers will accommodate that composition, and if that is your vision, you need to choose the proper floral subject. Flowers that drape, such as tulips, are perfect examples of flowers showing movement across the frame.

By changing the angle of view, you can create three very different floral images from one photo shoot. Each one represents the flower with a different feeling, similar to photographing the same person in different poses.

Keeping the composition uncluttered will direct your eye to your flower portrait. Do not let your flower get lost in the background. Take the time to locate your perfect example of the species, one that stands out from the crowd, with the best angle, light, color and substance.

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