Painted Trillium

It is that time of the year for flower photography, at least for most of you. Not so up here in the cold climes of Vermont but else where many of you are scraping off the icy crust of inactivity lingering from this last winter and are out searching for wildflowers to photograph. So what is the most overlooked aspect of wildflower photography? We all know about pretty, soft light for pretty soft and delicate subjects such as flowers and we all know about choosing a flower that is in prime condition (no browning or wilting allowed!). but most of us forget that to get the best possible photo of a flower the equally important thing to remember is the quality of the background. You can pick the prettiest flower in magnificent light but if the background is distracting your picture is toast.

I approach all my flower photography based on the background. When I find a patch of flowers I select the individual flower to photograph based on its background. this is what I consider when looking for a great background: Is the background far enough away so that my subject will be in focus but the background won’t be? Out of focus background are only partly due to the f-stop you use. The other part is the distance to the background. I try to photograph from an angle that puts the background at least a foot or two beyond my subject. Is the background a complimentary color to my subject? A purple flower against a blue background or a pink flower against a red background just doesn’t look great. And finally, is the background soft? By this I mean does it have hard lines (sticks or branches) going through it or is there contrasty light behind the subject.

If the answer to any of these questions is yes I either look for a different angle to photograph or I look for a different subject to photograph. By the way, the idea of approaching a subject based on the background is also paramount in wildlife photography and portrait photography. In fact, you could almost say that the quality of the background in any genre of photography is always paramount.

So always do a background check. It’ll give one less thing for annoying critiquers and photo judges to chastise you about.

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