Barbara Ellison
Barbara Ellison

From photographing the Kentucky Derby to Presidential inaugurals, she has enjoyed the challenge of capturing the special moment and making it everlasting through her creative prints. As a Pro-market representative for Canon USA since 1989, she continues to educate the imaging community.

Creating Botanical Portraits: Lighting indoors

August 25, 2015

We often enjoy photographing plants located in our gardens, using natural light or a bit of added illumination to show off their beauty. But bringing the flower indoors into a more controlled location has some wonderful options for lighting too, using both natural and added light.

Natural light from a window can add drama or create a soft, gentle look. You can set an arrangement of flowers inside a northward facing window to allow soft, even light. When you set a flower right next to the window, you need to be aware of possible unwanted reflections. By opening the window and shooting against the screen, you can avoid the glare. If the outdoor view does not add to the beauty of the image, you could drape the whole area with the curtain sheers, creating a high-key effect similar to a light table. By moving a flower a few feet away from a brightly lit window, you could use the outside light to illuminate the background while using a small white reflector to bounce light onto the front of the flower

Using Canon Speedlites, along with a diffusing panel, will allow for a softbox approach, enabling you to record the details in the flowers with an even light source. Using your camera set on manual, you can set your aperture and shutter in the combination that you desire, while letting the Speedlite become the main source of illumination. In a studio, I was able to take a close-up of a ranunculus flower using only the soft light available in the room by increasing the ISO to 6400. 

Whether you are planning to create a close-up image of an arrangement or a single flower, you could use a macro lens with a Macro Twin Lite MT-24EX for illumination. The MT-24EX allows you to control the direction and output of the flash, while shooting very close to the subject. The small flash heads can bounce, rotate on the connector ring on the lens or detach altogether. You can chose to use one or both flashes and control their individual output to create even more dramatic lighting or balance them to give an even overall light to the flower. The MT-24EX offers balanced light, similar to a Macro Ring Lite, with the option to dramatically adjust output on either side of the flash unit. In these images of the cactus flower, a single light was initially unclipped and moved to light the side of the cactus flower. The second light was added to illuminate the front, but that overpowered the plant and blew out the highlights. Finally, the back/side light was pulled back farther from the plant and the front light was reduced in power, allowing the emphasis to fall on the flowers that were being supported by the cactus plant.

Over the years, I have recorded the orchids in my collection while they were in bloom. Because it was important to show all of the details in the sepals and petals of the flower, I chose to use the Macro Ring Lite MR-14EX to evenly illuminate the flower. From there, I was able to successfully use that base image to create mixed media pieces through hand coloring with pastels

Bringing flowers indoors allows you to enjoy them in your home while you create exciting images. Whether you use natural light or added light, you can produce ideal images to complete your vision.

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

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