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The Art of Flower Photography

Lesson 14 of 16

Botanical Gardens Flower Photo Shoot

Kathleen Clemons

The Art of Flower Photography

Kathleen Clemons

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Lesson Info

14. Botanical Gardens Flower Photo Shoot
Go behind the scenes as Kathleen shoots at a public garden. Learn basic garden etiquette then get a behind-the-scenes look at how a professional flower photographer works. Hear Kathleen's thought process as she composes her shots and works in the garden. Learn how to work a subject and get multiple compositions from the same bush.

Lesson Info

Botanical Gardens Flower Photo Shoot

We're at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens this morning. A beautiful location, with a lot of flowers in bloom. While we're here I want to show you some of the things that I talked about so far: how to work a subject, how to choose a subject, looking at the background, and dealing with light that is less than ideal, because I have a mix today. Before we get started, I want to talk a little bit about garden etiquette. When you're in a public garden, there are a couple of things you need to be careful of. You want to stay on the path and not step into the garden beds. You don't want to alter the plants in any way. I mean, if you're shooting in your own garden, you can dead-head, you can move things around. But be careful in a public garden. You can always ask the staff if dead-heading is allowed. Be wary of your personal space, so that you're not blocking a path because it's a public space. So, just a few things to watch out for. Though I'm lucky enough to be in this beautiful location today...

, all the techniques that I'm going to cover you can do in your own garden, in your back yard, in a park, you can buy flowers. The techniques are not fancy-garden specific. So let's get started. I found a beautiful hydrangea bush here. And what attracted me to it was, first it's in soft light, so I don't have to worry about diffusing the light. And it's a distance away, so I probably wouldn't be shooting this with my Lensbaby, because I prefer to do a portrait of a single flower or a small group of flowers. So I'm choosing my 180 millimeter F3.5 lens. And I see a couple of different shots here. With the ferns in the foreground, I'm thinking I can probably do some shooting through, which will eliminate foreground distractions and create a veil of color in the foreground of the shot. I also see a beautiful group of three up on the top of the plant and I love the way the colors go from a dark blue to a mix to a purple, all in a grouping of three, and threes are always really good for composition. I also see some newer plants, so I could do something here with life stages of this particular plant. And it's in really good condition. So I'm gonna start by shooting, well another thing that I can do here is, I can get close enough to fill the frame and not have any background, with just this plant because the flower is so large. So I'm probably going to start with that. So, I'm gonna shoot this at F and fill the frame with just the hydrangea blossom. And anther thing that you need to be careful of is not to step into the garden, which I almost just did, so I'm gonna stand back here and lean in and fill the frame. (camera beeping) (shutter clicking) and I'm placing my focus on the part of the plant that is closest to me. And then if I move over here a little bit, I can see that there are some some flowers that are well isolated from the ones behind and around it, so I don't have to worry about merges with my flowers, so I'm gonna take a few of those. And I'm gonna shoot at F4 because I don't want full detail. (camera beeping and clicking) And I'm shooting verticals and horizontal, which is always a good thing to do. And now I'm gonna move over to the grouping of three that I mentioned. What I also like about the grouping of three is that there's nothing behind it. The flowers behind it are far enough away so that I know I'm gonna get beautiful background blur and there's some great color back there too. So I have to find the best angle so that there isn't a merge. And I don't want depth of field throughout, so I'm going to be focusing on the foreground blossom. (camera beeping and clicking) And a small change of angle will create a stronger diagonal line. (camera beeping and clicking) Okay. Now I'm gonna do shooting through. For shooting through I will have my camera on F3. I want a lot of foreground blur. I have to find a space between the ferns where I can get a good view of a single flower. And the only way to do that is just to get down and start looking through. Okay. (camera beeping and clicking) Okay, and I'm gonna try a couple of different spots. Getting as close to the ferns with the front of my lens is going to give me better blur. (camera beeping and clicking) There's my vertical. (camera beeping and clicking) And my horizontal. So I made one stop at one bush and I've taken quite a different variety of images because I worked my subjects. And that's something that I always want you to do. So I talked to you about when sometimes the way the light is hitting a flower is what catches my eye and becomes my subject. And even though I'm in shade, there's a little bit of light coming across one of these lilies. And it's quite beautiful. And again, I can't get close to it so it's not gonna be a Lensbaby shot for me. I'm gonna shoot it again with the 180 millimeter. And there's also plenty of empty space behind it, so I know I'm gonna get really great background blur. So I'm gonna lean in as close as I can get and avoid these foreground distractions. And be sure that there isn't a strong line or another bit of light that's also going to be in my shot. And I'll shoot it first vertically and then horizontally. I'm also placing my focus on, there's a petal that is coming toward me, and I don't want that blurred because it would be a shape of blur and be a distraction. So I'm gonna place my focus right on that petal. (camera beeping and clicking) There's my vertical. (camera beeping and clicking) And I'm gonna try stopping down just a little bit more. (camera beeping and clicking) The background is gorgeous. Great! Found these beautiful lilies and one of the things that I like about them is that they're up nice and high. I don't have to get down low on the ground. And if you have issues with bad knees, have a hard time getting up and down, this is the type of plant that you want to look for. There are two beautiful specimens right here. And the light is hitting the top of the stamen here which I don't like as much as this one over here, which has more even lighting. And with a flower that has a center area with a lot of detail that comes towards you, you don't want to shoot it straight on. Going to want to shoot from more of a side angle. And because I can get close, I've added my Lensbaby Velvet 56 because I can get about five inches away from my subject with it. So I can really fill the frame. I don't plan on getting the entire flower. I'll be cropping petals, but not the tips. As I mentioned, if you're going to crop, you know, commit to the crop. And do a serious crop. So I'll stand on the side and see how close that I can get. (camera clicking) I'm gonna shoot this at a couple of different apertures. I shot it at F2.8 for max softness, and I'm also gonna shoot it at F4 and F5.6. I'm still learning the Lensbaby Velvet with different subjects as to how much softness and detail I want. There's a balance, so I'm gonna shoot at more than one aperture so that when I get back and look at them on my computer, I can choose the one that best is the story that I wanted to tell. (camera clicking) And I'm gonna move in a little closer. Moving in this close puts an emphasis on only the center and not the petals. And then I'm going to back out. And include the petals. (camera clicking) Okay. This tiny little blossom caught my eye. It's catching the light, but it's also very well isolated. So I know I can get good background blur. So any time you're shooting a plant with a long, thin stem, it's gonna move in the slightest of breeze. So you're going to be sure that you have a good fast shutter speed. And also a lot of patience. Because if you are willing to wait, there's always a lull in the wind. So you'd get your shot ready, focus, get your exposure ready, and then just wait for that lull and then click your shutter. I'm loving the background of all the other flowers of the same kind but this one will be, so that will just be a swirl of blur of pink and white flowers and this one should be pretty well isolated in the front. Now, I'm gonna back up a little more than I am, because the way I'm shooting right now, the top of the plant is going to hit the top of the frame, and you want to avoid that. You want a little space up there, so I just have to back out just a little bit. (camera beeping and clicking) And I got lucky, it stopped moving. Okay, I wouldn't shoot this also as a horizontal. Because I'm gonna run into that problem with the top of that stem coming right out of the top of the frame, so I think this is really good as just a vertical. I found a beautiful pink poppy here and it is in the sunlight, but as I mentioned previously, poppies are one of the flowers that glow in bright sunlight. But what I don't like is all of this plant coming into and around the poppy. So what I have done is use my clothespins to gently pull those aside so that I will not have strong lines around the poppy. I'm gonna shoot this with my 180 millimeter lens and I'm probably gonna shoot wide open, at F3. because I want, there are a lot of lines behind the flower as well and I want to be sure I get max blur on those. (camera beeping and clicking) Okay. I'm gonna use manual focus. Because when I was looking at the flower, I noticed there's a beautiful line right here and I want to be sure I get that line in sharp focus. And it's moving a little bit so I'm gonna take a couple of shots. And I'm not including the whole poppy. I don't really need the top. I don't need to see the top of the petals. I'm more interested in the shape at the bottom and that petal that I mentioned. (camera clicking) I found this beautiful little day lily in a large plant of them, but this one is in the shade, so I don't have to diffuse the light. So that would be my subject choice. I'm attracted to it because the stamen are in great condition. The yellow is strong. The pollen will turn brown on an aged flower and it's pretty unattractive. And because it's in the center of the flower it needs to be in good condition. I have to be careful of this flower so that I don't blur this foreground petal and create a shape of blur in the foreground. So the solution to that is just to get to a slightly higher angle so that that won't be an issue. I'm gonna shoot this with my 180 millimeter lens to get the whole flower in, and then I'm also gonna shoot it with my Lensbaby Velvet 56 for a closer view, and probably a softer look to the image. (camera beeping and clicking) I'm including most of the flower, but I'm leaving off the bottom petal. And I'm gonna try a slightly different point of view. (camera beeping and clicking) And I'm going to back up a little bit. (camera beeping and clicking) So I'm continually working my subject. I don't take just one photo. And I'll probably get down and shoot this from a low point of view as well. (camera beeping and clicking) And for that shot, I stopped down to, well actually I went wide open to F3. because once I looked at it, I found this beautiful ruffled petal edge. And I didn't want anything else in focus. I didn't want your eye to go to the stamen or the stigma. I wanted it to stay right on that petal. So now I'm gonna change to my Lensbaby Velvet 56. Quickly. Hmm, hmm. And I'm gonna shoot this. I'm gonna shoot at F5. and then I'm gonna try some larger apertures for more of a glow, less detail. And when you have long hair, (chuckling) and you're shooting, sometimes you have to tuck it in. (camera clicking) And notice I'm not shooting this straight on. I'm from more of a side point of view. And I'm gonna move in as close as I can. (camera clicking) I'm also going to shoot the verticals. (camera clicking) And I'll try that low point of view with this lens as well. When you change aperture on this lens, it's with a ring on the lens. And when you shoot with a Lensbaby, you often want to do a quick exposure check. Check your LCD or your histogram, because sometimes they handle light a little differently. especially when you use one of the Lensbaby models that bends, because sometimes you're bending toward the light, and sometimes you're bending away from the light. But my exposure looks good, so I'm gonna do a few more. (camera clicking) And I think i need to stop down a little more. (camera clicking) Okay. The sun's gotten quite high now, and I'm running out of shade. So it's time for me to make my own with my diffuser and my flower pod. I found this beautiful old fashioned rose. But with harsh sun there are added shadow lines and the last thing I want to do to a flower with beautiful lines is to add shadow lines. So I have my flower pod with the diffuser attached. I just move that into position. Put my camera down. Now the light on the flower is soft. The diffuser is close enough to the flower to still allow plenty of light. I'm not going to need to add a reflector. Shooting this with my Lensbaby Velvet 56. And I'm gonna get in very close because there really isn't a lot of attractive foliage around that I want to include in the shot. I really just want the rose. Because the rose has depth though, I'm gonna be stepping down more than I would for a flower with less depth, a flatter flower. So I'll probably shoot this at F5.6 and also F8. And I'll be shooting verticals as well as horizontals. (camera clicking) And I'm gonna try a few at F4 and F2.87 as well for more of a glow and a very soft look. (camera clicking) and of course I'm not gonna shoot from only one point of view; I'm gonna try a lower angle as well. (camera clicking) There.

Class Description


  • Choose the right macro lenses
  • Build the ideal photography gear kit
  • Find (or create) the best light for macro shots
  • Know where to place small objects in the frame
  • Set the correct aperture and exposure
  • Master close focusing with depth of field
  • Confidently capture macro work of any type of flower


Flowers are the perfect subjects for both beginning and professional photographers alike. Not only can they be found almost anywhere, but they offer a wide range of colors, textures, and shapes to explore and experiment with. But as perfect as flowers are for photography, the dominance of similar pictures makes it hard to capture a unique image.

This course takes you on an in-depth journey into the glories of flower photography, with expert photographer Kathleen Clemons as your guide. You’ll learn everything you need to know to take captivating shots that will wow your audience and celebrate the beauty of nature. Learn how to take flower photographs that stand out.

In this class, you'll learn how to spot the best flower to photograph with your naked eye, whether you want to capture artistic or documentary images. The flower will become the star of the shot as you learn to eliminate distractions in the background. At the end of the class, work confidently with fields of flowers and single flowers, at each stage in their life cycle.

Whether you have a Nikon, Canon, Sony, or mirrorless camera body, Kathleen will show you all the essential tools of flower photography, from macro lenses to plant clamps to extension tubes. She’ll cover technical details such as aperture settings and your depth of field, as well as stylistic issues such as composition, backgrounds, and close-up or macro shots. The course ends with a demonstration of a real shoot in a garden so you can see Kathleen in action as she takes different angles and close-up images of different flowers and flower petals.


  • All levels of photographers interested in macro photography.
  • Photographers who want to learn how to shoot close-up images of small subjects.
  • Photographers who want to better understand special equipment for shooting macro and how to deal with difficult lighting situations.


Kathleen Clemons is a nature photographer known for her painting-like images of flowers. The Maine-based photographer works with Corbis and Getty images. While she's known for her photography, Kathleen also has a degree in education, which she mixes with her passion for flower to teach other macro photographers.



What a fantastic class! Kathleen Clemons' presentation was well-organized and offered exceptional how-to advice along with actual gear and beautiful slides which demonstrated her points. I felt as though she were talking to me personally and truly wanting me to be successful. Her explanations of technique, accompanied with video of her in the gardens using the camera was very helpful. In addition, I found her critiques most enlightening, and I learned a great deal about how to improve my own images from them. In short--this was an exceptional class, and Kathleen Clemons is an amazing teacher. I have watched the class twice and plan to purchase it for continued review and reflection. Anyone who wants to photograph flowers artistically needs this class. Thank you, CreativeLive, for this wonderful presentation by Kathleen Clemons.

Julianne Carlson

Thank you Kathleen for taking the time to share your wonderful knowledge and technique's with us through this 5 star course. Your breathtaking ethereal images are a true inspiration and I can't wait to get out there and practice with my new Lensbaby velvet. Not only was this course a wonderful tutorial for photographing flower subject but much of your instruction can be used when photographing all of nature. This is the best Creative Live class I have taken yet!

a Creativelive Student

Kathleen Clemons is a wonderful teacher who communicates a powerful passion for flower photography. I learned so much from her about how to see and capture the beauty of a flower using macro lenses. As I launched into this new area of photography, I felt equipped and free to experiment and learn and grow. As I looked through the viewfinder of my camera, it's almost as though Kathleen was right there with me - I saw how to focus in on one area of the flower, then another, and change aperture settings to impact the depth of field, and experiencing the intricate beauty of God's creation. The ultimate moments for me were the images captured as a result of everything I learned. I highly recommend Kathleen Clemons as a teacher and this amazing class, The Art Of Flower Photography. Review by Catherine Martin