Composition Choices with Macro Flower Photography

Regardless of the camera gear each of us may use, we all face similar composition choices with macro flower photography. This article shares a number of macro flower images and discusses some common composition choices.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Look for interesting lighting.

Finding interesting lighting is always an important photographic consideration when composing an image… and this holds true for macro flower photography. Often back lighting can be particularly effective as it can help to define details.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/400, ISO-400, microscopic mode
Avoid harsh light and shadows.

Whenever possible it is best to avoid harsh light and shadows. Harsh light can wash out colours in photographs, and shadows can cause a fair amount of distraction in our images.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/400, ISO-400, microscopic mode
Consider depth-of-field.

We will typically be working with much shallower depth-of-field when creating macro images. Considering depth-of-field is often one of our most critical considerations, as it can dramatically affect the overall impact of an image.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/320, ISO-800, microscopic mode
Think about subject separation.

A number of factors can play a role in the amount of subject separation in our photographs. Some of these include aperture, shooting angle, focusing point, focal length, and background distance to subject.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/400, ISO-800, microscopic mode
Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/100, ISO-400, microscopic mode
Use a precise focusing point.

By selecting a very precise focusing point in an image we can direct a viewer’s eye to go where we desire.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/320, ISO-800, microscopic mode
Keep focal plane in mind.

Focal plane is the distance between your camera lens and the perfect point of focus in your photograph. This horizontal area is positioned a certain distance in front of your camera lens. Since we are typically shooting with shallow depth-of-field when doing macro work, it can be important to shoot at right angles to our subject flower. This helps us keep the entire length of the subject in focus in our image.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/160, ISO-800, microscopic mode
Busy backgrounds can hurt an image.

As with other types of photography, it is important to consider the backgrounds in our flower macro photographs. Backgrounds that are too busy, or have an odd blob of colour can hurt an image. As you can see in the photograph below, the busy background competes with the subject flowers. The small out-of-focus purple colour blob on the right hand side also detracts from the image.

Olympus TG-5 @ 12 mm, efov 66.7 mm, f/3.8, 1/250, ISO-500, microscopic mode
Offsetting the subject can add some drama.

When we first start doing macro flower photography it is quite common for us to position the subject matter in centre frame. There is certainly nothing wrong with this composition choice. If overused it can cause our images to lack variety.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/100, ISO-800, microscopic mode
Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/100, ISO-3200, microscopic mode

Offsetting the subject flower or leaf to one side can add some drama and variety to our photographs. Using equidistant composition technique helps create balance and good eye flow in this type of composition.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/100, ISO-1000, microscopic mode
Experiment with different shooting angles.

How we choose to compose our photographs is an intensely personal decision. If we want to keep growing with our craft it is important to continually challenge ourselves. We can do this by experimenting with different shooting angles. Let’s have a look at a few examples… the first image uses a traditional ‘flower in centre frame’ approach.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/400, ISO-400, microscopic mode

Now, the same type of flower shot from a different angle with the subject blossom offset…

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/400, ISO-320, microscopic mode

Our next example shows a standard close-up with the subject in centre frame.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/160, ISO-800, microscopic mode

And, now an offset composition approach…

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/160, ISO-800, microscopic mode
Change size perspective.

Using a different focal length, or adjusting the distance between our camera and the subject flower, alters its size perspective. This can dramatically affect a macro flower photograph. The blossom below was shot in tight using a profile angle to help get much of the tip in focus and also highlight the length of the blossom.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/400, ISO-400, microscopic mode

By changing our shooting angle we can give a flower more of a feeling of depth. In the following image you can see that the flower is now thrusting out towards the viewer. There is more visual interest on the tip of this subject blossom. The shift in shooting angle helps to highlight this added visual interest.

Olympus TG-5 @ 18 mm, efov 100 mm, f/4.9, 1/320, ISO-800, microscopic mode

There are a variety of composition choices with macro flower photography that are available for us to use. Like other forms of photography, our composition choices enable us to add our artistic interpretation to an image.

Technical Note:
All images were captured hand-held using camera gear as per the EXIF data. An Olympus LG-1 LED Light Guide was used. All images in this article were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

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