Shooting Flower Life Stages and The Dance


The Art of Flower Photography


Lesson Info

Shooting Flower Life Stages and The Dance

Okay, I'm gonna talk more about choosing a subject now. And I want to talk about the different life stages of flowers. So let's start with newborns. These are all about promise and things to comes, and sometimes a bud is even more beautiful than the flower when it opens. So, look at these poppies. They're just starting to open. Pods are just separating. There's a little bit of color coming out. Of course there are curves. (laughing) So it caught my eye. But you don't just need an open, beautiful, prime flower. You need to think about all the life stages. Look at this poppy. This is the first dancing bud. The buds don't usually dance, but this one was, for me anyway. And they're beautiful, beautiful subjects. And I don't add water. I don't know if anyone had that for a question. I don't add water to my subjects, but I do shoot early in the morning or on a foggy day also, and I'll get the natural water drops. When I first started, I did try adding water. And I did it with a syringe, beca...

use I'm just anal enough to want to control exactly where the drops go and vary the sizes of the drops. So that's something that you can do too. But I haven't done that for years. There's a couple more of a flower just opening, and a couple more buds, and a whole plant of just tiny buds. So definitely think about that. The other life stage is prime time. It's what you're probably going to shoot mostly. And what you want to look for here are very fresh flowers. And you don't want age spots. You don't want drying petals. You can use the clone tool in Photoshop afterwards, but choosing a fresher subject will eliminate that issue and then you'll spend more shooting and less time working on the images. And both of these were just in excellent condition. If the image isn't in as great condition, then you want to think about more selective focus. You're gonna want to think about blurring the areas that are not as pristine or eliminating them from your composition. This is a nigella, one of my new favorite flowers. It's this big. Very, very tiny. And not an easy one to shoot. But this one was in prime condition, as was this morning glory. No dry petal edges, morning dew, and a nice diagonal tilt. And the calla. When you shoot a calla, you really want to put a strong emphasis on the curves and be sure that the image is in good shape. And then I like to shoot senior flowers as well. This is a magnolia. And the center had just started to turn brown. And the lines were still wonderful on it, and I thought if I made it black and white, the age of the flower wouldn't be quite as obvious, or it wouldn't be a distraction, and it would be more about the lines. I like the lines of the center in contrast to the long lines of the petals. So that's something else to do. These coneflowers were both on their last legs. But I love to shoot older flowers. As a flower ages, often you get even more petal curl. You sometimes get intensified color. And if it's not a flower that gets big splotches of brown, it can still be really beautiful. And what I did with both of those was use a lot of blur for a lot of softness. So the lines are still beautiful, the color was great, and you don't see the flaws. This flower, I shot up at Acadia, when I was supposed to be shooting landscapes. But there was a flower. And I used super shallow depth of field because the rest of the flower was not in very good shape. But I loved that petal and it had nice texture in it as it was aging, and just blurred the rest. These two as well. And you can see what I mean here about petals getting more curves, more curls, as the flower ages and the color intensified in both the magnolia and the rudbeckia. And I've added a texture to both of those which will also cover up a little bit of the flaws. This is rudbeckia growing in my yard. And I shot it when it was beautiful. And then I shot it when it started to pass. And then we had an early snowstorm, and it was still there. So I have the whole life stage from bud to frozen for this one. So, you know, just because a flower has passed, it doesn't mean that it isn't beautiful. Here's a couple more of freak snowstorm images. One in the spring, and one in the fall, an early shot. I think that was last October. And my dahlias will generally bloom right into October. Not after that. They stopped. But seasonal images. This is my favorite way to photograph a flower is to catch it dancing. And I don't know how to explain that to you really, other than the fact that I see a dance. You generally, there are curves, extended curves. Usually, there are petals out, sort of like arms. That was my favorite shot from all last year because it's two people dancing to me. And I just, I absolutely love it. I love the interaction and the personification. And the curve of the pink daisy has the same thing. And I shot that with a Lensbaby. And a Lensbaby can distort the petals and create a sense of movement in it. So catching flowers dancing is just my favorite. I mean, it's just dancing. This is a magnolia and luckily they don't grow in large clumps so that you can easily blur the background. And I focused right on that center and I wanted some of the petals. I didn't need all of the petals in focus because I wanted to be sure I did have a blurred background. And it's dancing. Here too. This one, I wanted very, very low in focus. You know I said I like to go on that edge to see just how little I can get in focus. I did that with this one. And that created an even stronger for me, feeling of emotion, with the movement blur. And this is too. Here I needed a little more in focus because there's a lot of tiny detail in the center. Plus, I put the center of the flower in the center, which means it has to be in focus, it has to be a strong focal point. But the curves and the leaves, it was very different from any other flower in the group. It just had more curves, longer lines, and that wonderful little rolled up curl in the bottom. And sometimes they're leaning over in a dance with a curve. That one was dancing in the light. As was this one. Curvy stem is always a good thing. I'm always looking for curves. And this one for me was windblown. And it feels like it's dancing in the wind. And I was playing around with black and white processing and found this process in Macphun where I could sort of make a coffee color, and yet have that with a black and white. And I thought that was kind of a nice compromise between... It's actually a bright orange flower on a bright green background. And the green was just too much for me. And I shot it vertically. It was hanging over. So when I flipped it up like this, there was a stronger feeling of motion. It just didn't work for me as a vertical. And I flipped it and went oh. Another dance, extended petals. So when you're out shooting, start looking for flowers that are dancing. Sometimes they dance together in small groups. This is shooting through. No material or anything, just shooting through the flowers. And sometimes they dance in pairs and alone. And I like to often have, as I mentioned before, I like an echo flower in the background, but it needs to be enough out of focus so that it adds to the background but it doesn't become a second subject. I don't want your eye to bounce back and forth. And there needs to be a main subject.

Class Description

Flowers are full of color, depth, and texture which makes them a perfect subject for hobbyist and professional photographers. In The Art of Flower Photography with Kathleen Clemons, you’ll learn how to take photographs of flowers that highlight their mystery and inherent beauty.

Kathleen has been called the “Georgia O' Keeffe of flower photography," and in this class she’ll teach you how she creates her unforgettable images. You’ll learn about:

  • Choosing gear and equipment for flower portraits 
  • The importance of good light and how to find it
  • Factors that affect depth of field 
  • Guidelines on where to place the subject in the frame

You’ll learn the difference between artistic and documentary images and how to work in both styles. Kathleen will also offer flower photography tips on shooting some of the most popular flowers including: roses, callas, poppies, cosmos, orchids, daisies, and wildflowers.

Flowers are abundant, beautiful, and universally loved – learn how to create stunning portraits of them in The Art of Flower Photography with Kathleen Clemons.


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

Cheryl Tarr

I love the way Kathleen sees flowers and captures their essence. I watched a free Creative Live course that Kathleen taught and became an instant fan, and when I saw this course advertised I knew right away I wanted to have it in my course collection. She has so many tips and tricks for capturing soft, artistic renderings of flowers and I appreciate that she is so willing to share these with others. She is very clear in explaining what she does - an excellent teacher as well as an outstanding and original photographer. I highly recommend this for anyone who wants to explore flower photography.