Why do flower photos suck? What makes a good/great one?

Discussion in 'Nature' started by davidweaverphoto, Jan 21, 2004.

  1. I think that most flower shots are not very interesting. It is also
    noteworthy that very few people view, and even fewer rate, the
    flower shots. Most shots are not highly rated, even the very good
    ones have a hard time getting better than 5/5. I have a hard time
    rating or commenting upon them too. I do have some extremely
    abstract shots but then you can't really tell its a flower.
    I didn't see a discussion form on this but there are probably a lot
    of good and diverse opinions on this topic. There is no catagory
    for me to put this into either. <P>
    My father put a coin next to the flower pictures he took to provide
    scale. He also used to shot from the top too - something that I
    avoid unless it really adds something to the image. You can also add
    descriptions that could tell more about the flower. But, this is not
    how I view images in a gallery or how I present them at home.
    This may the the wrong place to do this, and my appologies if it is,
    but I would like to have people tell me (and each other) what their
    favorite flower shots are and specifically why they like them.
    Please don't post a photo but a link to a shot on photo.net or other
    location seems reasonable.
  2. I can't really point you to any that blow me away, but I am willing
    to share a few reflections on flower photos with you.

    This is very stream of consciousness as I am writing before I
    have thought through what I really want to say on the subject. My
    1st impression is that most people rely on the flower itself to
    create the impact. The more successful shots to me are not so
    much about the flower, but rather about seeing it from a unique
    point of view. The impact has more to do with the photographer
    than the flower.

    I recall seeing a flower that Franz Lanting shot ... some exotic
    thing in some remote exotic location. What made it interesting
    was the fact that he took the time to really light it artfully...he
    placed a strobe under each petal and illuminated it from
    underneath so that it appeared to glow. I have seen a few other
    shots of the same type of flower without the extra effort when it
    came to lighting....very weak attempts by comparison, and even
    though the flower is apparently extremely rare...the shots were
    extremely ordinary. As I recall it was a flower that bloomed once
    every 100 years and had an extremely offensive odor...that odor
    was how Lanting was able to locate the flower.

    I've seen flower shots that I thought were pretty interesting taken
    from a worms point of view. Camera underneath the flower with
    an extreme wide angle. The light coming from the top gives
    highly saturated colors in addition to the unique angle of view.

    I tend to take a second glance at shots that are not relying on the
    subject itself for impact, but a rather a creative way of seeing a
    familiar subject ... creativity alone though can not carry a shot, it
    must also be aeshetically pleasing and well lit. Being different
    just to be different is not the answer. This is a tall order indeed...
    and as a result of this nearly impossible task..."most flower
    shots suck" to borrow your terminology.
  3. Please don't post a photo -- but this is not essay-dot-net
  4. Explain to me how suck came to be interpreted to be a negative term.
  5. First off, flower pictures don't suck. Flowers are pretty; pictures of them are pretty, but that also makes them very common. Anyone with a camera has probably at some time taken pictures of flowers. There is a similar problem with pet pictures- too common for their own good.

    It is difficult to separate the subject from the photograph, and this makes flower pictures difficult to rate. You have a similar problem with nudes; just put a well-lit shot of a nude woman on the screen, and most guys will pay attention to it, even if the shot itself is not remarkable. Flower pictures have a hard time being original, even if attractive.

    What makes them good (in my opinion) is: not to have a photograph of a flower, or flowers, but rather have flowers in the photograph. In other words, I'd like to see a landscape with flowers in it, including close-up flowers, rather than just a shot of a single flower. I've noticed a trend on photo.net to just photograph a single flower and have all the background black. To me, that is fit for a botany book, but not what I want to hang on my wall. I like using a wide-angle lens, with flowers near and far. Or flowers near and mountains far, whatever.

    One tip I read a while back (and have used a time or two)- when you can, get down low and shoot up at the flowers- different angle helps.
  6. mbb


    For the same reasons some other types of photos ‘sucks’ in eyes of people who don’t like the subjects. Flowers, plants are everywhere around us, they not moving so there is an opinion that anybody can take this shot. In my believe as long as one don’t care about what somebody else likes than one is taking the photos of what is beautiful for him. My photographs I am taking for me to come back to it in the future and contemplate the moment from the past when I saw it. There is never enough for me to catching the fantasy moments when I am watching the growing tendrils. If somebody doesn’t like it ….
  7. I think the most successful flower photos, besides just cataloging the species, impart a sense of texture, fragility (or not) and ask the viewer what their relationship is to the flower.
    Over the summer I did an excercise for a photography class (first one, please keep in mind): 36 images of one thing, shot to look different each time. You can see the result here: Anthropomorphic Sunflower. Granted, the exposures are not great. Instead of working with lighting I worked with context/location. But the sunflower, which I found at the local organic market, had such qualities that I wound up seeing the series as film stills (Hitchcock/Jimmy Stewart maybe :). Not saying I achieve any sort of artistry with these, but they were fun to make.
    What about flowers in funerary context, leis, competitive roses, scrubby weed-flowers? So many different ways to see them.
  8. I agree about flower photos needing an interesting composition, point of view, or at least anything besides a nice single centered flower. Flowers are challenging to photograph... that's why you see so many boring shots... and why you think they "suck". Some of my favorite flower shots are close-ups of only part of the flower... takes a moment to realise what you are looking at, or other shots where water drops on the petals become more of the subject than the flower itself. There are also some "seductive" shots that resemble... ok, I won't go there, but you get the idea. Anyway, I agree that some flower shots can be boring if not done creatively, but they do not all "suck"... that's for sure!
  9. I'm just "thinking-out-loud" here and forgive me in advance if I offend somebody, but I think it has something to do with interest. There are many beautiful, prize-winning flower shots out there, and I know of a young woman in Paris who is doing some stunning abstracts. But unless you're doing something incredibly artful or original with flower shots, they just aren't very exciting. With everyday flower shots (like the ones you see in field guides) there's no story, no message, not much to be learned, and no "experience" in which we can immerse ourselves. I don't come away from viewing a flower photo with much more than admiration for a pretty flower and the competence to photograph it well.
  10. This post reminds me of a post a few months back in which Bob Atkins posited that images of wild animals are often boring. The answer is the same. Frame-filling photos of animals can be made at a zoo and tend to be boring. Frame-filling photos of plants can be made at a greenhouse and tend to be boring for the same reason. Both benefit from context. Show the environment.
  11. Any photo can suck if it has no original composition, if it has poor lighting, if nothing about it sticks out at the viewer, if it is portrayed much the same way that hundreds of other shots of the same subject are portrayed. Nothing special about flowers, or animals, or cacti, or ghost towns, or Delicate Arch that makes those shots especially suck more.
  12. Gloria: Do you have a link you can share for the woman in Paris?<P>
    I read the forum notes and it seems they didn't want photo's but I'd actually like to see what shots you think as exceptional posted here.<P>
    I find flowers are intrinsically interesting, they are part of Nature that doesn't move much, well unless you are trying to shot them in the wind. They grow practically everywhere and are facinating to many and maybe that is why they are such a common subject. We can get close to them. They don't look away, hold a hand up to cover your lens or say 'you can't take pictures here'. It can be portraiture with an exceptionally patient subject too. <P>
    You can use a simple digital camera or a SLR /w a bellows rig so the ability to take flower pictures may extend to more people than those that do action sport or photojournalism. Maybe this drives up the image count here and also skews the 'quality' curve so 80-90% of the flower photos are really below the median and some of those will make there way to forums, critiques, competitions, and home galleries. Just more thinking out loud here.
  13. What I think sucks is an approach to nature photography that's merely about producing pretty pictures. Granted we all want to do that, but if being a naturalist is part of what you are as a nature photographer, then I think you will find you are more interested in wildflowers in general, and more appreciative of pix of wildflowers in particular. I love a stunning shot as much as anyone, but I also like "catalog" shots if they are shown in a way that helps tell a story about a particular place that the photographer loves. Even with a catalog shot of an ordinary flower, you can do your best to think about making it visually appealing/interesting.
  14. stemked

    stemked Moderator

    Asides composition and simple mechanics of getting a good photo, 90% of the poor photos I see of flowers are done in poor light or with little regard to lighting at all.

    It's a bright sunny day and there are some beautiful flowers out-who can resist?

    I scare people when I am taking serious flower shots, the backgrond maybe darkened with shading of some type, reflectors on the bottom to highlight lower parts of the flower. If you are lucky with heavy overcast (or got up early enough)you may not have to seriously manipulate the shot.

    I have seen good flower shots in full sun; often using a very strong composition . But to me lighting is generally the most critical factor.
  15. Let's look at this logically. Flowers do not suck as subjects. Anyone's list of the most beautiful things on Earth, birds, jewels, butterflies, minerals, mammals, reef fish etc. would include flowers somewhere. To find better appreciation of flower photography, try a nature photography forum.
  16. Umm...This is the Nature Photography Forum...
  17. j_a


    I’m going to toot my horn a bit and say that I think, and more than a few others, think that my flower photos DON’T suck. I haven’t got much in the way of ratings, but I can’t hang on to some prints long enough to frame them for myself. I try to be creative in angles, lighting and composition. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. There my daily bragging time is done, back to my humble self.
  18. You said that most flower shots aren't interesting, well most pictures shot are not interesting period, so really there's no difference. who cares what is highly rated, theres no emotion behind numbers. numbers don't reflect any passion at all. if you shoot flowers passionately, then maybe there's some out there that will share your enthusiasm, if not at least you still have yourself. at the end of the day, what you think is what really counts.

    i personally don't like shooting at gardens, but i like wildflowers. when the light is good, i can't resist at least getting a few shots of them.
  19. The pitcher plant comes closest, but its actually a mechanism based on gravity and downwards pointing hairs rather than air flow.
  20. Well, I really enjoy seeing and making flower pictures. They appeal to me as colorful skies over beautiful landscapes. So I think flowers photos suck because you think so.

    About what makes a good one, I believe that are the colors, the fine detail revealed and the exotic aspect of some flowers.
  21. Well, I botched that one, so I will try to atone. What makes a great flower shot? As someone else said, "one you like." Van Gogh's sunflowers or Georgia O'keefe's irises are paintings touched by greatness. Such images are possible through the photographic process. I believe people are doing such things somewhere. If you cannot find what you want in one place, try others until you succeed. Now if I could just erase that other response . . .
  22. Because of the quite naïve belief that photo of a beatiful object is a beautiful photo.
  23. One of the few insightful things I've read from Hans so far.
  24. Most of the "field guide" shots I've seen are pretty bad. If a little imagination is used, the results can be quite different...
  25. Here's a slant. We photographers are people. ... and as people observing nature, we become enthralled by the natural beauty. I can remember a number of times when I have been behind the lens, being enthralled by my subject ... and just pulling the trigger. This generally equals documentary of an interesting moment. Just because the moment or subject was interesting as an observer of nature, doesn't mean the moment will translate to our audiences' eyes. What I am trying to say is that it is a wonderful thing to appreciate nature. However, once I have enjoyed my subject, I sometimes find it necessary to step back and question how can I translate this awe to my audience. In order to "reframe" the image in such a way that it will be a SHARED experience, I need to back off and allow my artistic side to take over.

    I reflect on the many socials I have been to where the host places a single use point and shoot on each table. People excitedly snap off pictures of fun things happening in the room. Does this make them artistic portrait photographers? Obviously not. An artistic portrait photographer seeks to not only to observe the moment, but challenges him/herself to present the moment with the viewer in mind. The photographer carefully examines composition, lighting, flow, etc., etc., until he believes that the moment can be adequately shared.

    I say we nature photographers keep on "luvin" our nature. However, my challenge is to step up and present it more with the artistry that captures our respective audiences. ... share the moment.
  26. more succinctly ... what Hans said!
  27. •[• Z , jan 23, 2004; 07:16 p.m.
    "One of the few insightful things I've read from Hans so far."

    Stay tuned! There's more insight to come from Hans!
  28. Sophie Thouvenin is who Gloria was referring to. I also find her work to be quite stunning. You can see her sight here. She definitely has the creative eye.
    Hans made a very good point which I think it at the root of your answer. I see a lot of flower images that are just shot in bad light, which kills it instantly. Shoot in good light, well, it could make it a lot better, but still perhaps "boring" to some. You really have to capture the character of the particular flower (or flowers). I think when you emphasize that, many people will connect with your image.
  29. Well - I see I screwed up my HTML in my post, so here it goes again;
    Sophie's site: Sopie
  30. Mike Spinak- I looked at your link, and my reaction was oh my god. what the hell is this? ive never seen anything like that. awesome work man, keep it up.
  31. Craig Blacklock has some very nice wild flower images. The secret to his success is that he captures them in their natural environment. He most often uses 5x7 or 8x10 view cameras so the detail and colors are quite spectacular. If you want to see some of his photos, just enter his name on google.
  32. Stay tuned! There's more insight to come from Hans!
    Like referring to yourself in the 3rd person? That's not going to do it.
  33. •[• Z:

    If it was good enough for Caesar, it is good enough for Hans.
  34. everyone's covered the subject pretty well, so I'll just add my our fav flower pic. I have 2 or 3 others that I'd class as ok.
  35. If it was good enough for Caesar, it is good enough for Hans.
    And if it's good enough for pretentious fools too? Good enough for you too?
  36. Ray House

    Ray House Ray House

    Why do flower photos suck? Maybe your preconcieved notions are getting in the way. I don't think any general group of images can suck.
  37. When you say "flower shots are not very interesting" DW, I suspect you are talking about closeups as any landscape photographer readily seeks colorful flowers to foreground complement landscapes.

    The key to your statement is you seem to be gauging it by how members of this photography community rates them hererin. Therein lies most of the that issue. Experienced photographers will be much more critical because closeups of flowers have generally been shot to death such that it is difficult to be original as several here have noted. But that ought not detract from the essence of any well done such images which would readily be borne out by positive feedback and hence commercial value from the public. I also reject the notion that a flower photograph must somehow be uniquely artistic or original instead of the obvious. There is also much difference between someone that takes pictures of gaudy cultured flowers or those in gardens versus those that work with wildflowers in the natural landscape. A picture may be more than just its raw image. Some flowers are common and others are rare. Some grow in environments that are difficult to frame or under which lighting is awkward. Much more as this is a complex subject and not something that can be stuffed into someones black and white box of opinions. For myself by far the more difficult part of wildflower images from the field is more about finding the most aesthetic specimen versus the technical setup required to photograph such best. -David
  38. Good answers above... most flower shots have ben done... and done... and done. In my opinion, the BEST flower shots are the ones that 1) isolate and enhance the flower into a "fine art" photographic shot to where it no longer is "just a flower", but a work of art OR 2) incorporates the flowers into an overall landscape.

    To me.. the shots of "just" a field of flowers is pretty... but not that eyecatching.

    Photos of flowers are a good example of snapshots VS photos. Snapshots have been DONE already... and require very little thought as to exposure, composition, etc. A GOOD photo requires some thought and / or preparation... occassionally a "snapshot" will capture the moment... but usually NOT.
  39. most flower shots have ben done... and done... and done. In my opinion, the BEST flower shots are the ones that 1) isolate and enhance the flower into a "fine art" photographic shot to where it no longer is "just a flower", but a work of art OR 2) incorporates the flowers into an overall landscap
    Some of the best recent flower photography I've come across is by James Merrell, a (UK?) commercial studio photographer who did great flower photography for Tricia Guild's book, "Cut Flowers." Hallmark Flowers saw the book, flipped over the images and hired him for their ad campaign -- where he made some really clever, beautiful work.
    Today I came across some recent b&w flower photography by Lee Friedlander, who needed to shoot something while laid up indoors with a bad knee. Some interesting work.
  40. Flowers are one of the ultimate exercises in photography; whether it
    is a bunch I have purchased at the farmers market,a friends back yard
    stand of tulips or acres of hillsides of wild poppys.
    As with most subjects difussed light with a concentrated single direction key light seems to bring out the best in a flower or flowers. Vibrant colors with accenting or boldly contrasting opposite color back grounds, with texture, help. Nice strong side light that comes throught translucent petals and the right amount of ambient light that wraps around the rest can create a composition that reminds one of the fact that a flower that does not attract a visitor to pollinate it may not return.
    If you look up some images of flowers by someone named Cunningham you would see that the only thing that sucked would be the bees and humming birds that came for the nectar. Walt Byrnes

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