Question on Photography of our flowering bulbs

Jane McGary
Wed, 07 Jan 2009 12:40:23 PST
Because I deal with a lot of plant photos in the journal and books I 
edit, I think I can advise Justin although I'm not a professional 
photographer myself.

He wrote:

>My brother has set me up with items needed to take macro pics of any 
>flowers that I will eventually get.

Often macro photos are not as useful for publication as photos that 
show more than just the flower. Macros can be very artistic, but 
readers tend to like photos that also show the leaves and some 
background so they get an idea of what the plant may look like in the 
garden or in nature.

>I was wondering about what everyone things is the ethical limit (if 
>there is one) as to what one has to do to "clean up" the flowers for photos.

You should always remove debris that is impeding the view of the 
plant, provided you can do so without damaging other valuable plants 
or damaging the object itself. A blade of grass may not look to you 
like an obstacle when you see it in reality, but when it shows up in 
the photo, it will make the difference between a prize-winning or 
publishable photo and one that the editor sadly rejects.

Another problem that often occurs with garden photos is that the 
photographer doesn't consider what's in the background. It may be an 
unattractive building (or even a perfectly normal-looking house), 
cars, power lines, the kids' wading pool, and so on. You should 
always try to keep unrelated and manufactured objects out of your 
plant photos, unless they are ornamental and integral to the garden. 
If photographing a plant at the roadside, keep the road out of the frame.

Another thing that bothers me is getting a digital photo that has 
been color-enhanced so that the flower appears to be a color that it 
never displays in nature. You see this in commercial catalogs a lot 
(crocuses the color of Tecophilaea cyanocrocus, e.g.), but a reader 
or editor who has seen the actual plant will know what you've been up to.

When I photograph plants in pots, I sometimes lift the pots and then 
sink them in a sand pile near my bulb frames so they will be isolated 
and look more like they're in the ground. You can improve the 
lighting this way too. Professional plant photographers use big 
reflectors to improve the lighting.

I run an annual photo contest for the Rock Garden Quarterly, with 
different judges from year to year, and the different people tend to 
have varying standards and pet peeves. However, it has given me some 
perspective on what works and what doesn't, and has also improved my 
own very amateur photography. (The digital SLR is what improved it 
the most, though.)

Jane McGary

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