A Definitively Unprofessional Guide to Flower Photography Vol. 2: Indoors Without People

Photographing flowers indoors can lead to a blurry photo due to the lack of natural light, or an uninspired snapshot if a direct flash is used.   Windows, sinks, refrigerators and china cabinets don’t make for an interesting backdrop either. But the advantage that the indoor flower photographer has is time and access to gear.

Indoor photography requires at least one of the following ingredients: a tripod, a flash, or luck. I use a healthy mix of all three, but for flower photography I try to rely less and less on luck. When I started reading photography forums 10 years ago I read some advice about purchasing tripods. It said if you’re serious about photography you should never buy a tripod that’s under $100 as a cheap tripod will either need to be replaced, or thrown away as the hobby of photography is forgotten about. Like my brothers before me, I had to learn this the hard way. You want a stable tripod and portability should not be a large factor. Maybe it can be worn as a backpack, but it shouldn’t fit in your backpack, and certainly not your pocket. Buying a cheap tripod is like asking your great-grandmother to hold a try of champagne flutes at your wedding. She’d probably do it for free, since she’s your great-grandmother, but it’s best to let the paid, and less shaky, staff handle it.

Lamp Light

Besides the tripod, my favorite gear to use for indoor flower photography is a strong hand lamp. A fancy camera store will try and sell you a fancy camera lamp but in all my projects I’ve just used a standard reading lamp. Something like this for only $10 would work just fine.

The lamp light gives the photo a dark and eerie feel, especially when it’s the only light source in the room. It’s like the flower is holding a flashlight to its face and telling horror stories. They have no shortage of horror stories as they were recently decapitated and are now being displayed in a stranger’s home until they decompose enough to no longer be desirable.

In these photos I want the entire photo in focus and crisp. With the limited light this means a very long exposure time (10 – 20 seconds). A tripod is compulsory as is a remote shutter or time delay so the act of clicking the trigger doesn’t add any unwanted shake. This batch of photos was taken using a cheap lamp:

ƒ/20.0, 6 seconds shutter, ISO 100, Reading Lamp

ƒ/18.0, 15 second shutter, ISO 100, Reading Lamp

Remote Flash

The lamp provides some directional light to a segment of the flower, but sometimes a brighter photo is desired with striking blown-out highlights. In most situation a blown-out section of  a photo will ruin the photo, but in the case of flower photography I think it’s nice. It adds a nice bright white highlight to the otherwise colorful mix.

Continue reading A Definitively Unprofessional Guide to Flower Photography Vol. 2: Indoors Without People

A Definitively Unprofessional Guide to Flower Photography Vol. 1: Outdoors Without People

Flowers are nature’s gift to photographers. They are all different, and they are just sitting there at knee level waiting to be captured and social media’d. A fixed 50mm lens is perfect and cheap for this. Find a flower, have a small child touch it, and save room for an inspirational quote about following your dreams. It’s a sneeze away from a viral photo.

But after a decade of flower photography I have some ideas of what works best. There aren’t many ways to ruin the photo, but there are techniques to improve the already photogenic blossom. You’re probably on the right track, unless you miss the flower altogether.

Or point the camera the wrong way…

Or forget the camera completely, but still follow-through with the motion for some reason as if no one noticed…

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How to Grill Chicken While Not Paying Attention

When it comes to grilling there’s a lot of wiggle room when cooking most meats. If you over-cook a hamburger it just goes from an acceptable doneness, to another acceptable doneness. If you under-cook a steak, it doesn’t (necessarily) send your guests to the emergency room or bathroom. Hot dogs can be cooked from 1 minute to 60 minutes. It really doesn’t matter. It’s even cool to cook pork to medium-rare now. And those marinaded veggies you made? No one’s going to eat those anyways.

But chicken is the wild card of the barbecue. If it’s overcooked it tastes like bland jerky. If it’s under-cooked it (probably) tastes delicious until the violent diarrhea. While hours of diarrhea may help you get through the week’s top YouTube videos, it’s otherwise not worth it.

Don’t Grill Me, Dad.

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A Definitively Unprofessional Guide to Parade Photography

In terms of photos your aunt wants to show you, parade photos are in the middle-tier of boring-ness. They’re more exciting then photos of her kitchen remodel, lake vacation, or friends she hasn’t seen in years. But, they are not as interesting as photos of her hysterectomy recovery, flood insurance photos of her Franklin Mint plate set, or that time she ran into Patrick Swayze’s dad at Subway.

A parade is a collection of energetic happy people attempting to make a permanent impact on their audience via signs, floats, music and tricks, while making a temporarily frustrating traffic situation for non-attendees. On paper it’s photography gold, and the instinct is to capture everything at once, but the beauty is in the individual excitement, emotion and story. It’s a constant flow of photography opportunity, and each individual moment is fleeting.

My lens of choice is a zoom lens, preferably my 70-200mm f/2.8L II lens. This is perfect for the details, but comes with the most dangerous risk/reward ratio. To start, here are some of my favorites.

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Jason McGorty