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The Art of Flower Photography

Lesson 10 of 16

Shooting Flower Life Stages And The Flower Dance

Kathleen Clemons

The Art of Flower Photography

Kathleen Clemons

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Lesson Info

10. Shooting Flower Life Stages And The Flower Dance
A flower can quickly change from one day to the next. Learn what to look for as a flowers go through different stages, from buds to the prime, fresh flowers to "senior" flowers. Then, Kathleen explains the "dance" that she looks for -- how the curves and shapes of a flower can look human-like.

Lesson Info

Shooting Flower Life Stages And The Flower 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


  • 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.

Class Materials

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Gear List

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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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