Photographing Clivia

I am not going to pretend for a moment here that I am a great photographer or even a remotely good one.  I am very pleased with many of the Clivia photographs I take and perhaps that is because I take so many, a few would have to turn out satisfactory. Or, perhaps I have a good eye for what makes a plant look attractive and at its best. I think that is the answer. The most professional photographer in the world may not necessarily photograph your plant to look how you would like it to look.

This article aims to be simple and not get into fancy cameras or settings. I have taken many photos with a simple Nikon camera that has automatic settings, and I have taken some fabulous photos with my iphone6.

When a flower is first opening, it is so tempting to want to photograph it immediately, however the plant will not likely look its best until all the flowers are open. I tend to take a few photos as it is opening and then take more when the flowers are fully open. That way I am covered should something happen and I am not able to photograph the plant when it is fully open. An example is a pink flower that opened this season. I photographed the plant as the one flower opened, and had planned to photograph the entire flower head in a few days. That night it was extremely windy and the pot was blown over, damaging all the flowers. I was pleased I had at least that one photograph.

Before I photograph a plant, I gently wipe all leaves to remove dust or marks. Nothing looks worse than a beautiful flower in a photograph with dusty or dirty leaves. If I will be photographing the pot then I clean that too. Generally I do not photograph pots.

If there is a spike in the pot to hold a previous flower up, or to hold this particular peduncle up, then I will remove it for the photographs.

I turn the pot around to determine the best angle for the flower arrangement. Sometimes what you consider the front of the plant does not photograph as well as the back of the plant where there may be more flowers. It is important for balance so it is a good idea to gently swivel the pot in a full 360 degree turn to work out where the best balance is.

The background for me is always a nightmare. I have bought numerous black cloth from stores and have never been happy with it. Somehow it tends to attract light and shine in places rather than be a matt black. I will keep experimenting and hopefully find the right material. I try to have a neutral type of background, whether that be a black material background, a pale coloured wall, or some other surface which is flat and matt. Photographing a flower with a busy background should be reserved for excellent photographers who are able to blur out the background and focus on just the flowers. I am not one of those.

The lighting is very important. I try very hard to capture the exact colour of the flowers. If I photograph indoors, sometimes the colour tends to look a bit pastel compared to if I photograph outside. Often I will try a few different locations and backgrounds before deciding what works for this particular flower. The time of the day makes a difference with the lighting.

Trying to judge what angle works best with photographing a particular flower takes practice and also just a flair for it. Sometimes positioning the camera low and shooting upward towards the flowers works best, other times shooting at an even level is best and other times, shooting slightly sidewards works best. I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder and everyone sees the flower at its best in a different light.

Photographs that frustrate me and are so often seen on Facebook, websites and forums are the ones where the flower is slightly blurry (or highly blurry) and out of focus, the colour is not correct making the leaves look slightly blue, over exposed photographs and over-done photographs where you can’t believe they are real as they look too sculptured and manicured.

Good photographs are very important for people who wish to sell plants, or sell seeds from those plants, and also to have a good record of your own flowering. It is worth taking some extra time to get the best possible photographs that you possibly can.

An example of good and ordinary photographs taken with a Nikon automatic camera and an iphone6 can be seen on the Clivia Market 2015 flowers Flickr album – flic.kr/s/aHsk895E1N