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The Art of Flower Photography

Lesson 12 of 16

Tips For Choosing Flowers For Photography

Kathleen Clemons

The Art of Flower Photography

Kathleen Clemons

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Lesson Info

12. Tips For Choosing Flowers For Photography
Shooting strategies can vary based on the type of flower that you are shooting. Gain tips and insight into working with different types of flowers in this lesson, including roses, calla lilies, poppies, daisies and tulips.

Lesson Info

Tips For Choosing Flowers For Photography

So let's talk about some specific tips for commonly photographed flowers. Roses, roses I usually shoot from either the top or the side. They're not one that's particularly beautiful from the bottom, and one of my favorite things about roses though is that when they start to age it's from the outside in. So it's the outer petals that get bad. So if it's your rose you can rip those outer petals off, not in a garden. Don't do that in a garden. But if it's your rose, and then you still have a very pristine subject. So that doesn't work with most flowers. But with roses it's great, and my emphasis is on the petal lines and edges. Generally with a rose an old fashioned rose will have a center detail as well, and I like roses from F22 to F3.5 because I can either create blurred painterly lines, or I can go for sharp texture and detail and it's just how I feel about that particular subject. There isn't a wrong way. It depends on your vision for the subject. So here I went super soft. Here I we...

nt super detailed, because I shot this on a foggy day, and it would be a shame to blur all those wonderful little dew drops. Calla lilies, calla lilies are all about the curve. You have to put an emphasis on the curved petal lines of a calla. You have to celebrate the curves. So I chose this angle because this one had usually the tip just goes straight down, and this one came back and there I'm always looking for something different. So I had to shoot this at an angle that would highlight that and I also wanted to highlight the texture of the petals. Yes, Sharon? Which lens were you using? Is that Lens Baby or is that your 180, and if it's the 180 are you standing back so you can get more blurred background? Yeah this was at Longwood Gardens where the calla lilies are in, across the water. Right. (laughing) And they probably would frown on me going into the pond, so yeah. So that's with my 180. Okay. Millimeter. And there was really, the exposure was tough for this because that's in the conservatory, and the ceiling is glass, and when the sun is high that light is so, so strong. So I had to really keep a close eye on my histogram when I was trying to shoot that because it was really easy to blow the very top, top out. I had to underexpose a little bit to take care of that. But yeah. And more callas. See the emphasis on curve. But even though I shoot callas a lot I still find them fascinating, and I'm still finding new ways to shoot them and they're different enough, like the one I showed you that I shot in Dublin. That was the most beautiful one I had ever seen. I'm not finished shooting calla lilies. I generally, rarely, have a whole lot of background, that I didn't have a choice with the one that I just showed you because I was far away from it, because I want, I want you to be drawn to the curves. Poppies, poppies are a flower that you can shoot in bright light. I wouldn't do it at noon, but early in the morning, or late in the day. Beautiful, warm, soft side lighting would be great, and I like to shoot them generally from eye level to get right down where the poppy is. I don't shoot them a whole lot from a lower angle than that, but it's a happy flower, a poppy, and so I think warm light works really well with that. And here's another one from Ireland, and that was actually looking at the background first, and, and this one is just really different, and I like flowers that are different from their relatives. (laughing) Like people that are different from their relatives a lot too, but it, I had never seen a poppy, a poppy with this shape. So I shot it as a vertical that you saw before and I also had a horizontal. When you shoot a poppy, you need a fast shutter though because they have really, really thin stems and so it doesn't take much of a breeze at all to move. Shooting early in the morning will help with that but keep that in mind. Even one of those clamps or something isn't gonna do a whole lot on a really thin flower. They move easily. Orchids, orchids are hard. They are a very complicated flower and they usually grow in groups, so you can't isolate them, and they have a lot of detail that comes out. Because of that don't shoot them straight on. If you shoot from the side it's going to be a lot easier to get a decent amount of depth of field. You might get a little blur in the horn but you'll still be able to capture enough of that center detail, and that is really the place to focus also on an orchid. And see they grow in groups. Here I used the tool that I talked about wrapping around my lens hood, because I didn't, you know, I didn't, I wanted to be able to stop down enough to get good, sharp detail in the center one, but I didn't really want that in all of them. So, I wrapped the tool around, and you can see the tool is a little thicker in the back, a little thinner in the middle, and I left that one out, and that also simplified the background because orchids often have very messy backgrounds and they have clips holding them up, and they, they're difficult. But a side view is much, much easier than shooting them straight on. Then you can't really see all that beauty if you shoot it straight on. If you're just a little bit from the side, and fill the frame if you can, so that you're eliminating the, the background distractions. Daisies, daisies are free spirits. I like to shoot them very much. I shoot them as single flowers often. And this is another one that I've added a texture to and I shot this because it was unusual because it was bent over because the daisies are usually nice and straight. And sometimes a whole, a whole field is beautiful. This is also from Ireland and I have added topaz impression to this for a more painterly look which simplified it because it was pretty busy with all those flowers, and what I saw was flowers dancing and the image didn't really convey that until I softened up a little bit. Tulips, tulips are great, great flowers to shoot because you can shoot them in full sun if you get down low, and let the sun illuminate the base of the flower. They come in so many different varieties and colors. People usually plant them in large groups, so there's a good background for you. You can go from very simple to very detailed with a tulip. You can move in close and focus on just one curve of a petal, or raindrops on them, or a lower petal, and as I said, you can shoot them in bright light. The one on the right I only wanted a petal edge in focus. Same with this one. Just a petal edge, and let the background go to total blur. I'm even shooting flowers with my iPhone now, and absolutely loving it. These are all except the bottom one. Shot the bottom one with the Hipstamatic app, but the rest are all Lens Baby for the iPhone. And here's my phone, and I have a phone that the top of the case comes off of. Lens Baby comes like this in a little case, and I have this little rig to attach it onto my camera and then this is a magnet and it just goes right on there and then there's a Lens Baby app that you download and just as with the other selective focus lenses I can move my sweet spot of focus wherever I want on the screen and I can get about seven inches away but it's fabulous for me to have something in my purse that I can shoot flowers with, though I had intended it, intended to or not, and I'll show you a couple more. These are also Lens Baby. So I can draw your eye to just one area, blur the background, and I get the distortion that I love in the petals. It's very, very simple and fun, and I have joined Instagram. Follow me there, Kathleen Clemons if you'd like where I'm posting a flower every day, and I encourage my students to use their phones if they have them to shoot anything, not just flowers, because you're doing something creative every day with a lens that you have with you every day in your phone, and I think it takes a lot of the more complicated parts of photography out. You don't have to worry as much about aperture and you can be more creative and you can really work on your compositions, being sure you exclude distractions and moving in close and you're shooting every day, and on Instagram I may not take a photo every, I may not post a photo that I've taken that day but I'm posting one that I've worked on that day. So I'm doing something creative every single day and I think that's good for any type of art, to be involved in it every day, and it doesn't, you know, most of these are taken in my yard. You know, I'll run out for 15 minutes, walk around the yard with my phone, and I also meant to tell you that I tend to plant what I like to photograph, and I have my plants and gardens on different sides of the house, so there's usually good light somewhere, and something blooming somewhere, which is really nice.

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

Bonus Materials with Purchase

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