Using a Standard Zoom Lens for Flower Photography

This article provides some tips when using a standard zoom lens for flower photography. All of the images in this article were captured by my wife during our recent trip to New Zealand. The photographs were taken hand-held with a Nikon 1 V3 and a 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD standard zoom lens. 

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Standard zoom lenses that are often supplied when buying a new camera package can vary significantly in terms of quality. The 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD zoom is a pretty decent standard zoom lens that is capable of producing some interesting flower photography.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 30 mm, efov 81 mm, f/5.6, 1/80, ISO-800

As we can see with the above image, shooting angle, focal length and aperture used are important considerations when using standard zoom lenses for flower photography. These lenses typically have variable apertures starting at f/3.5 on the wide end, and with an aperture of f/5.6 on the telephoto end. This can make it difficult to get good subject separation from the background as we can see in the image above.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 29 mm, efov 79.3 mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-160

One approach that can be used to get some subject separation is to find flowers that are isolated, with the background a fair distance behind the blossom. Using a longer telephoto focal length helps to reduce the amount of depth-of-field. This can help create some subject separation even when shooting at f/5.6.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 14.3 mm, efov 38.6 mm, f/5.6, 38.6 mm, 1/640, ISO-160

Sometimes it is not possible to isolate a specific flower. A different approach is to position the flower at the centre of a composition. The photographer can then move in closer to the subject flower and use a wider angle focal length. This will put more of the surrounding background in focus, while still having a feature blossom in an image.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 30 mm, efov 81 mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-160

Shooting at an angle and positioning the centre of a flower to one side in a composition can produce some interesting photographs. This type of shooting angle can be helpful to blur out the background to some extent, even when shooting at f/5.6. Photographing a flower at an angle and using one side as a focus point increases the physical depth of a subject blossom, and pushes the background away slightly.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 30 mm, efov 81 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-160

The key with this type of flower photography composition is to use a longer telephoto focal length as this helps to reduce depth-of-field.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 30 mm, efov 81 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-180

Depending on the minimum focusing distance of your standard zoom lens, you may be able to move it quite tight to a blossom and have it fill the frame of your composition. This approach can yield nicely detailed flower images, especially when shot during overcast conditions or in diffused light. Here are a couple of additional examples of this approach…

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 29.1 mm, efov 78.6 mm, f/5.6, 1/800, ISO-160

It is important to monitor wind conditions to ensure a fast enough shutter speed to compensate for potential blossom movement.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 29.1 mm, efov 78.6 mm, f/5.6, 1/250, ISO-180

It is always a good idea to experiment by using different focal lengths available on your standard zoom lens with the same subject flower. Here is an image that my wife captured using a longer focal length.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 26.4 mm, efov 71.3 mm, f/5.6, 1/640, ISO-160

The final image is this article is of the same flower, but shot at a shorter (i.e. wider) focal length.

Nikon 1 V3 + 1 Nikkor 10-30 mm f/3.5-5.6 PD @ 14.7 mm, f/5.6, efov 39.7 mm, 1/400, ISO-160

Sometimes people are told that they ‘must have’ a macro lens or a fast aperture prime lens, along with a tripod and flash, for flower photography. No doubt this type of equipment can be helpful in many situations. As my wife’s flower images in this article demonstrate, it is possible to create quite pleasing flower images shooting hand-held using a standard zoom lens. It is important to understand the limitations of your camera gear so you can use your creativity within those parameters.

Technical Note:
All photographs in this article were captured hand-held in available light using Nikon 1 gear as per the EXIF data. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.

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Article is Copyright 2019 Thomas Stirr. All images are Copyright 2018 Rosemary Stirr. All rights reserved. No use, duplication or adaptation of any kind is allowed without written consent. If you see this article reproduced anywhere else it is an unauthorized and illegal use. Posting comments on offending websites and calling out individuals who steal intellectual property is always appreciated!

2 thoughts on “Using a Standard Zoom Lens for Flower Photography”

    1. Hi Joni,

      I will pass on your comment to my wife. Actually she is an avid gardener and we haven’t talked much about flower photography very much at all.. so she deserves the credit for the quality of her photographs.

      Tom

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