Flower Photography Books—Exactly What I Needed

Every now and then, someone will show up with the perfect gift.  In this case, it was my wife with flower photography books! I have two older garden photography books, but they have proven to be less helpful than I had hoped. They are wordier than I like and are focused on more extensive gardens, not flower portraits.   

Having a small front yard garden, I don’t have any vistas to capture, so formal garden shots are not helpful. I bought the older books on Amazon and could not see their contents before buying. Don’t get me wrong, they have useful information, but the images look old and outdated. The newer books are from 2015 and 2020, and the floral images are shot in a more modern, pleasing style. 

Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis, the 2015 book has beautiful macro images. It also contains a section on flower anatomy, which I found useful. Davis makes frequent use of a lightbox as a background light source, which has given me a few good ideas that I can experiment with. The book’s best feature is the amount of detail he provides to help the reader understand how to set up a shot. Brief sections are dedicated to choosing a lens, macro lens comparison, composition, depth of field, exposure, and other key concerns. For each image, he gives the specific settings involved, addressing a pet peeve I have with so many photography books—they show a picture and never say exactly how to reproduce it. My only qualm with this book is the amount of time spent describing how to accomplish something in Photoshop. I will have to adjust some steps because, being focused on digital, the book gives more instruction on post-processing than I will use—I don’t own Photoshop or Lightroom. I want to capture images using only the camera’s capability. I won’t be doing focusing stacking either. However, I do own digital cameras, so the information on using histograms will come in handy. 

The second book, Creative Garden Photography (also by Davis), is more like the older garden photography books in content though modern in design. Here too, Davis distinguishes his book with detailed shooting instructions and creative suggestions. For example, he illustrates lighting innovations, out-of-focus techniques, and motion blur to produce eye-catching images. The main downside is, once again, the emphasis on Photoshop. I don’t expect anyone to write a book on film-based flower photography in 2021, but it seems that without significant manipulation in Photoshop, many images simply would not exist.  

Overall, I am pleased with both books. They offer practical tips focused on the fundamentals such as lighting, exposure, composition, lens choice, studio setup—all of which I can put to immediate use. The advice for digital camera users will also come in handy because I’ve started using my Minolta Maxxum 7D and Olympus e300 (with manual Minolta lenses) much more. They both have the old CCD sensors that render colors beautifully. Those who are digital-only shooters will likely find the post-processing information quite helpful. 

With these two books in my library, I’m looking forward to my first daylily photo session. They usually bloom by late May, and this year, I’ll be ready.

4 Comments

  1. Jerome, There aren’t any simple answers when it comes to the philosophy and non-negotiables of why we do things a certain way. I’m referring to the use of photoshop. I had to decide if the reason I shoot photos is for the enjoyment of the process or the photographs themselves. For myself it’s about the image so I must do what is necessary to help the image be all that it can or what I envisioned for it. I am a strong proponent of getting all you can in camera but rarely is everything in perfect alignment so outside help is needed to achieve what I as the artist envisioned when I pushed the shutter button. Does this mean I’m less of a photographer?

    I am not a purist when it comes to methodology. I get there however I can but there will always be someone ready to rain on my parade. I don’t care nor can I let that influence my thinking in such a way as to hinder me from photographing something I like. Technically some would call my photoshop use a crutch but I only see it as a tool for helping me to bring happiness and enjoyment to others. My critics are not the people that possess some of my photographs.

    Anyway, do what YOU want and let everyone else fret over the result. I can appreciate many forms of expression even if I don’t indulge in them myself. I’ve always tried to question processes and dogmatic philosophies so that I can better understand them. Just because someone says it requires photoshop doesn’t mean a similar result couldn’t be achieved through the implementation of a different procedure. It just may be too intricate for them to personally undertake. To do this though requires a deeper understanding of process and tools as well as personal dedication to the end result. Only you can determine if the result is worth the effort.

    Onward and upward.

    1. HI Bill, good to hear from you again! And thanks for such an insightful comment.

      I didn’t intend to make Photoshop use a touchy subject. I spent many years writing and debugging software, so more computer time is not my idea of fun. But to be clear, my criticism of the book was from the standpoint of using it to learn to shoot film images. Film has obvious limitations compared to digital and Photoshop. I’m happy to live within those limitations. So, using Photoshop to get around those limitations holds no interest or value for me. Whether others use Photoshop or Lightroom is not a concern to me. To each his own…

      My personal photography journey is about mastering the principles of photography in order to be able to achieve whatever is possible with a camera and in a darkroom. If it’s not possible with the camera and in a darkroom, then I have no interest in doing it. The film process is as enjoyable and important to me as the final image. I’m having fun, and that is my ultimate goal.

      Finally, I am not a film purist. I have four digital cameras, and, so far, I have been pleased with the JPEGs without additional tweaking.

      The conclusion in your comment strikes me as the proper attitude, which I very much agree with: Do your thing, whatever that might be…

      1. Jerome, I didn’t intend for my reply to sound like I was offended by your post. I wasn’t. All I was saying is that so many people want it to be their way or the highway(not referring to you). Mastering a craft goes beyond dogma. Even when film was all there was there was no lack of individuals telling me if I didn’t use a certain camera or lens then I was wasting my time. Whether or not I’m wasting my time is for me to determine, no one else. My intent in my comment was for anyone reading this post to realize that they only hurt themselves when they can’t see beyond any boundaries or fences that seem to be placed around creative thought. I totally support your position and I know you will accomplish way more than the person who thinks that a piece of equipment is the pathway to great work. I have a friend whose pinhole camera work is incredible. So much of great art is about what is inside the individual artist. I hope I’ve clarified my position and not muddied the waters more. I always try to heed the rule of the hole…stop digging.

        1. Bill, no offense taken here. I understood your point. I attempted to agree with you while expressing to others who might read that post what I am trying to accomplish with photography. Seems I could have expressed my thoughts better. So much for trying to keep my responses short…

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