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 Don’t get me wrong, they have useful information, but the images look old and outdated.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.