Hands up if you’ve visited Canberra’s annual floral spectacle and taken dozens of photos, only to be disappointed with the results when you look at them at home?
With a multitude of colours, wide expanses of flower beds and a million blooms on offer, it’s easy to assume capturing amazing shots is a simple feat, but this isn’t always the case. If you’ve ever been disappointed by your Floriade snaps or wondered how to improve your floral photography, help is at hand.
Two of Canberra’s professional photographers have been photographing the floral glories of Floriade for decades and have a wealth of tips to help others find some focus and view their flower photography with different eyes—and take home some terrific shots at the end of the day.
Australian Institute of Professional Photographer members, Ben Kopilow of Fusion Photography and Geoff Comfort of Geoff Comfort Photography have again teamed up with Floriade to present a number of well-structured workshops early each Saturday morning of the festival. The two have a long association with Floriade having presented these workshops for the last 10 years, honing their skills and the messages they want to impart, whittled down to some key elements informed by decades of professional practice.
In fact, it was Floriade that first got Ben into photography nearly two decades ago. With a new camera in hand and no experience under his belt, he entered a shot of a single flower in the event’s photo competition—and ended up with first prize. It was enough to inspire him to start on a new career journey into photography.
The winning image was a simple one, of a solitary bloom, so it’s no surprise Ben cites seeking simplicity as his number one tip for floral photography.
“In photography, often less is more and allows your image to stand out from the crowd.” says Ben.
He even quotes Leonardo da Vinci to back up his view: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
While Geoff also highly values simplicity and focus, his number one tip is to be aware of your background when taking a photo, whether it be a rogue leaf or bit of dirt or someone in the background.
Geoff also speaks of the importance of light in photography. The word photography itself means ‘drawing with light’ and finding the light is integral to taking a great shot. However, having lots of bright, harsh light in the middle of the day is not so great when photographing flowers so Geoff has some ideas to counteract this.
“You can soften light with a diffuser, or create your own shade with an umbrella or have a friend create some for you,” says Geoff.
“Take advantage of cloudy days. They provide softer lighting and allow you to more easily capture the shadows and details of flowers.”
Both photographers stress you don’t need the best gear to get great photos. They believe being creative and thinking about the composition of your photo are all important, and they’re skills you can learn and practice.
“When people come through the gate, they’re often so excited they often start snapping madly at the first flowers they see,” says Geoff.
“But it’s important to slow down, have a good look around and find a flower or scene you want to feature, then work out how to compose your image. Rushing means missing details, and the details count.”
Some of Ben and Geoff’s other favourite tips include:
- look for a focal point or point of interest in your photo
- lead the viewer’s eye to where you want them to focus in your photo, for example by using focus or leading lines
- think about the light—use shadow, side light or back light for different effects
- move around your subject for different perspectives or different views.
The Floriade photography workshops are held early each Saturday morning, before the crowds arrive and to take advantage of the softer early morning light. Starting with a talk and some pointers, they allow lots of time to practice, with assistance if needed. Time is spent at the end looking at some participants’ shot and providing helpful critiques.
But even if you don’t make a workshop, next time you venture into Floriade, or any field of flowers, with a camera or phone in hand, perhaps take the time to slow down and focus on something small and eradicate distractions. There’s a million potential images waiting in the blooms—the challenge is to focus on one that stands out.
First published at The RiotACT