Techniques

Creative Flower Photography – Tip #9: “Shoot it Indoors”

by F.M. Kearney | September 25, 2013

© F.M. KearneyAs an outdoor nature photographer, I generally prefer to take my pictures, well…outdoors. However, a recent family emergency prevented me from getting out into the field as often as I would have liked. To prevent cobwebs from forming on my equipment, I needed to come up with ways to stay active. One way was to try shooting photos indoors. Of course, landscapes were out of the question, but flowers were a different story. I bought some flowers at a local florist and I was back in business.

Indoor shooting has its advantages. There’s no wind to deal with, and since I hand-picked my subjects out of a display case, they were all in pristine condition. The best part is that my commute to the “location” is just a few steps away into the next room.

With the proper lighting, I was able to simulate many of the effects I do outdoors. But, I soon realized that this was the perfect opportunity to try something new—something that I wouldn’t be able to do outdoors. I began experimenting with flashlights. Surefire has a huge line of specialty lights and accessories. With prices ranging from $60 to over $600, they’re definitely not cheap, but they’re extremely powerful and can be outfitted with colored bezels for a variety of creative purposes.

Since I normally don’t shoot indoors, I don’t have an actual studio. But, for these pictures, all I really needed was a container to hold the flowers, a black cloth and a few tripods. I used at least two flashlights for most shots. I attached one light to the handle of a mini tripod and placed it beneath the center daisy to create a backlight. I then attached a red bezel to another light and hand-held it to sidelight the other flowers—taking care not to discolor the one in the middle.

Backlight flowers © F.M. Kearney

For the chrysanthemum, I did just the opposite. The blue backlight was created by a flashlight outfitted with a blue bezel set up directly under it. I hand-held another (bezel-less) flashlight to create a strong, “white-light” sidelight on the tops of the petals.

Crysanthemum © F.M. Kearney

It’s much easier to use a remote release and avoid looking through the camera when taking these types of shots. It’s very difficult to see which parts of the flowers are being lit up by the hand-held flashlight in the viewfinder. It’s also harder to judge its intensity. A minor change in the angle can make a huge difference, which is much easier to see with your naked eyes.

Rose with water drops © F.M. Kearney

The red rose was shot on a mirror. One flashlight was placed in the rear in the upper left, and another was positioned in front on the lower right giving me a “cross-lighting” effect. Shooting on a mirror does have its challenges. If you want a black background, everything it reflects needs to be blacked out—which can be quite difficult if the mirror is very large. I found it easier to work with by placing it on the floor, flush up against a flat wall. That way, I only needed to tape a black cloth to the wall to get a solid black background. Another problem was dust—a mirror seems to attract it like a magnet. No matter how many times I brushed it away, another speck would appear just when I was ready to shoot. However, these minor issues can easily be fixed in post.

These are just a few of the things you can do indoors. If you have a full-fledged studio with bigger lights and different backgrounds, the creative possibilities are virtually unlimited. I still prefer to be outdoors, but when that’s not possible, indoor shooting is the next best thing.

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a series of photo tips by F.M. Kearney on thinking outside of the box when photographing flowers. See all of F.M.’s articles in this series »

About the Author

F.M. Kearney is a award-winning fine art nature photographer specializing in unique floral and landscape images. His work has been exhibited in galleries, and featured in numerous magazines, calendars and gift cards. He is a frequent contributor to NANPA's newsmagazine, Currents, and the weekly photography blogger for Contemporary Art Gallery Online.

Kearney began his career as a photojournalist for local New York City newspapers. Using the subway as his primary means of transportation to and from his assignments, he became quite familiar with the system. It eventually became the inspiration for his newly-released horror novel, They Only Come Out at Night. A slight departure from photography, it's a supernatural thriller set in the New York City subway.

To see more of Kearney's photography and to learn more about his book, please visit www.starlitecollection.com.

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