Photographing Flowers in Close-up

Flowers make a fascinating subject for close-up (macro) photography. Not only do they look good, they’re also easy to photograph provided there’s no wind around and they aren’t dancing and swaying in the breeze.

Water lily

Water Lily detail


Even a modestly priced compact camera, like the one I used here, can get interesting shots. While a more expensive and larger DSLR camera always wins on quality, compacts win hands-down on convenience. You can stick it in your pocket and take it everywhere. Even smartphone cameras are improving their image-capturing quality all the time.

With your camera set to ‘macro’, you can get right up close to any flower and focus on the interesting parts. If you use full auto settings, then the camera will probably do that automatically when it senses that you’re focusing on something very close. Alternatively, you can pull back and get more of the flower in the frame or more flowers.

Butterfly Pea Flower

Tripods are useful, but not usually essential, for this type of photography. They help you obtain a sharper photo as they eliminate any camera shake, which is always present to some extent when the camera is hand-held. As the flower being photographed isn’t going anywhere, you have time to set the tripod up and position it exactly as you need. On a bright and calm day, you can select a high shutter speed on your camera to get good pictures without a tripod. All the photos shown here were taken without a tripod.

Thai bloom


In any close-up photography, you need to ensure you have enough depth of field. That means that in addition to what you’re focusing on, you will want other parts behind and in front of your point of focus to also be in focus. The closer you are to your subject, the smaller the depth of field. Reducing your camera’s aperture setting (by selecting a higher f no.) will increase your depth of field. You don’t want too much depth of field, though. If you can keep the background out of focus, it will add impact to the main subject. A background that’s in focus tends to be distracting and lessens the impact of the main subject – the flower.




Natural light is best. The direction of light is important too as it can cause uneven shadows unless the flower is directly facing the sun. A little bit of an angle is good though as it brings out the texture. You can use fill-in flash to lighten shadows – but not too much as a typical camera-mounted flash can make the image look unnatural. Serious flower photographers use reflective sheets to reflect light into shadows on the flower.


Lotus and bee

Lotus flower and bee

Set your camera to take photos at its highest resolution (number of pixels horizontally and vertically). That way you can crop the image and still have a good-sized photo. It allows you to take the shot from further away and improves depth of field and other macro-related difficulties. Cropping and any other enhancements are better done by using a photo editor on a PC. There are more options available on a good photo editor such as Photoshop or its free competitor Gimp, and the larger screen of a PC makes editing easier.

Next time you’re out and about with your camera, try some close-up flower shots. You’ll get some photos that you find interesting – even if nobody else does.

All images by chasmac

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