Among my favorite close-up subjects are bleeding heart flowers because the buds are just so fascinating in their shape and I've shot hundreds of photos of them (I had a huge plant growing in my side yard but a neighbor weed whacked it into oblivion--I just hate lawn people). I particularly like this pretty backlit shot and in studying it I came up with a quick list of five tips that I think make the photo work:
- I chose an attractive segment and was careful that all of the blossoms were in good shape (i.e., not fading or misshapen in any way). Again, these bleeding hearts are very different in shape from most flowers and that pinkish-red color is just beautiful.
- I used strong back lighting from a late-afternoon sun. Most flowers are somewhat translucent and when the sun comes through them from behind they seem to glow. You'll have to experiment with adding some exposure using the exposure-compensation feature to prevent underexposure--particularly if the background is very bright. I used +1 stop here.
- I used a dedicated 105mm Nikkor macro lens and close-up extension tubes. Prime (one focal length lenses, as opposed to zoom lenses with a macro setting) are sharper that most zoom lenses. Extension tubes have no glass in them so they don't degrade the image in any way.
- I used a wide aperture to toss the background out of focus and create an attractive "bokeh." Bokeh is a Japanese word that refers to the "smooth" quality of the out-of-focus area.
- I shot in RAW and that allowed me to adjust the white balance and exposure after the fact. The exposure I used was pretty accurate, but I did warm up the white balance a bit during the RAW conversion process.
Good graduation gift! If you're looking for a good digital photo book for a graduation gift (to go with a new camera perhaps?) my book The NEW Joy of Digital Photography has sold nearly 100,000 copies and is a great introduction to photography and digital cameras. By the way, I'm looking for new ideas for my next photo book--so if you have any suggestions just email me or leave a comment!