A Slice of Focus: Lessons for Photographing Plants Using Shallow Depth of Field

@crystalbrindle A belated thank you for the comment on my article, Crystal. I am glad to hear that you found it helpful!

@Brent_Clark Thank you for the kind comment about my plant photos, Brent. I appreciate it! Unlike a lot of other kinds of nature photography, I find that photographing plants in this way takes a lot of experimentation and failures (I can take 300 frames of 30 to 40 different subjects in a session and come out with 3 to 5 decent photos, for example). Practicing in my old backyard was most helpful since I could take as much time as I wanted without the pressure of being around other people (like at a garden). Buying a bouquet of mixed flowers and photographing them around your house in mixed light for a few hours is another great way to learn what angles and approaches can work. Then, you can apply all these lessons in nature later. I hope you can find some success this summer!

@john3 Thank you for letting me know that you enjoyed these photos. In general, I get the soft, pastel look by using the following super-simple techniques… First, I almost always expose to the right side of the histogram or brighten the exposure in processing for the light and bright feel. I also reduce the contrast (for example in Lightroom, I would move the lights and highlights sliders to the left and the blacks and shadows sliders to the right). I also sometimes reduce clarity. I almost always cool off the white balance because I prefer pinks and blues over reds and oranges. If there are dark spots, I will brighten them with a dodging layer or use the color painting technique I describe above. Most important: lighten the exposure and reduce contrast - nothing fancy! I hope this is helpful. If you have any follow-up questions, please let me know.

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Sarah, excellent article. This definitely helped me as I struggle with really wanting everything in focus and the article gave me pause to challenge myself to really think outside the box on macro. Thank you for the insight on this subject. Will definitely have to trial some of the tips. Heading to Denali in September, so may try some with some of the tundra plants.

Thanks for the wonderful article, Sarah. My attempts at this kind of photography generally yield mediocre results. You have given me a lot to consider the next time I’m out in the field. I wish I had read this before my last trip.