How to photograph roses

Behind the scenes, metadata, camera settings - everything you need to know to recreate these 4 shots.

Classic close up

The main problem you'll run into with this shot is the high dynamic range. You've got white whites and very dark shadows, and you really don't want to sacrifice the detail in either.

The solution is an HDR merge in Lightroom or Photoshop. 

1. Use a tripod - you need 3 matching photos to merge.

2. Set your camera to auto exposure compensation +/- 1 stop.

3. Take the 3 shots (my Canon takes all three with one press of the shutter).

4. Import and use the HDR merge function.

5. I still needed to bring up the mid tones on the final image. 

SETTINGS: f5.6, 1/10th, ISO100, 100mm macro, Canon 6D, tripod. Natural daylight from window top left, plus reflector bottom right.

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Fill the frame, top down viewpoint

Another familiar angle to shoot roses from. There aren't really any technical problems with this shot, just practical ones. Unless you want to sacrifice all your roses by cutting off the stems, you'll have to create some way of holding them still and tightly in place.

My high tech solution was a piece of cardboard, punched with holes, and suspended on 2 rolls of wallpaper:

SETTINGS: f9, 0.3 sec, ISO 100, 50mm 1.4, Canon 6D, tripod. Natural daylight from window above, plus reflector below.


product shots

If you need to show all the details, pay attention to your lighting and your depth of field. Lighting needs to be very even - this is no time to be playing with arty shadows. Depth of field needs to stretch from the front to the back of your rose (use DoF preview button). And keep the background very subdued.

SETTINGS: f14, 0.5 sec, ISO200, Fuji X-T1, 50-140 at 140mm, tripod. Natural daylight from window to left and slightly behind, plus reflector to the right.


Super soft focus

The background here is critical - it looks like it was taken outside but the set up is the same for all the other shots, next to a window in my studio. But I've angled the shot so my neighbour's hedge adds the green backdrop.

In Lightroom I fixed the white point (+66), increased vibrance (+33), and lifted the dark tones (+65). If I'd have spotted it before I wrote the post, I'd also have desaturated the yellows from the shadows.

SETTINGS: f2.8, 1/80, ISO200, 100mm macro, Canon 6D, tripod.

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You might also like my series of posts with behind the scenes instructions for many kinds of floral photography. To see the whole series, click here: The Art Of Flower Photography.

Roses all from Sussex Roses. Please buy local, seasonal flowers when you can - it helps keep flower farmers in business and saves the planet. Plus you get scented flowers, not ones dipped in silver nitrate.