How to Shoot Cherry Blossoms
This is one of my favourite times of the year. I know it sounds strange and I should really be talking about “grinding out photos” [insert macho voice] of nightclubs or showing the gritty side of photography by shooting a plate of spaghetti or a stop sign in black and white. This is a time of year that I really do enjoy getting and and just shooting nature. There is a sense of renewal this time of year and I love it. The hardest thing is to try and capture this period of renewal to show other people the beauty.
The blossoms are tricky things to shoot because to our eyes everything is beautiful and evenly lit. However, once you click the shutter everything can change. The reason is that often your camera will expose the image differently depending on how it is metering for the light. Blossoms sometimes trick your camera’s meter because they simply scatter the light or diffuse it in a way that is hard for your camera to automatically meter for. So do be aware of this when shooting the blossoms.
Open Up and Isolate
Roy Cruz offered some great tips in his latest newsletter about zooming in tight to catch some of the details and widening your aperture to get some background separation. This is a great technique and is really popular when it comes to shooting blossoms. The reason is that the isolated subject really focuses your attention on one particular part of the image. With so many blossoms in the frame your brain gets a little overwhelmed. By isolating the subject you can really direct the viewer to that one part of the image that you want to highlight. It also helps keep unwanted details out of focus and could possibly create the illusion of more blossoms.
To achieve this effect I would suggest shooting Aperture Priority and setting it to f/2.8 or wider. You will see a lot of photographers using a 70-200mm lens for this as it allows them to get a bit more reach to focus on blossoms that are a little farther away. However, do be aware that this technique is extremely overused and can lack interest. So take some time and compose your shot well.
Lines and Colour
Adding basic rules of composition will help any photo but here is makes your images have a lot more impact. As I said before, the shallow depth of field shots where all you can see is one blossom up close are used a lot. So it is time to think about other ways to show the beauty of this season. Incorporating leading lines is a great way to add more visual appeal to your image. It takes the reader through the frame and lets them explore a bit of the beauty that you created. These lines can be created using paths or fences but even try to use the branches themselves. Don’t just go for the obvious.
Colour is also what makes this season great. Thus, you should use it to your advantage. This is a season erupting with soft pastel colours and vibrant pops of purple. People are expecting the colour as we welcome the change from the muted drab palette of winter. So try using different filters and effects. Afterall, you are creating art here and not a boring documentary, so feel free to make the colours pop a little bit more than usual.
Subjects and Foreground
Having a portfolio completely full of similar-looking flowers can turn off almost anyone. It also lacks a story and a sense of place. Cherry blossoms are a symbol of spring a rebirth in many parts of Asia, particularly Korea and Japan. Not to mention places like Vancouver and Washington, D.C. are also famous for their blossoms. Purely focussing on the flowers loses the sense of place and if you are wanting to show the blossoms in a magazine, you really should let the viewer know where you took the images from. However, it doesn’t have to shout “This is Korea!” but rather at least hint that this is somewhere in Asia or proceed to tell a story. This is where your subject can be important.
Adding something of interest in the foreground of your image and letting the blossoms take a backseat is another way to create more interest in the image. This time of year you can see blossoms everywhere. This is about the ways that you can use them to accent your image. Not to mention, if you are shooting travel pieces and want to show off the location the blossoms should take a backseat in order to give more focus on the location and subject.
Be a Tourist
With all these techniques and ideas circulating around your cranium, now is the time to get out there! Steve Robinson and I commented recently about collecting so many tips and tricks from ebooks and videos but rarely using them. Here is a great way to finally make use out of that great content that you purchased from places like 5DayDeal. The basic thing that I also hear is from a lot of photographers these days is “I have to get out more” and that goes for me to.
The best way is to do some research and join some groups. For example the Dynamic Busan page has a great post on where to go in Busan to capture the blossoms. Check around your area to see what is available. Perhaps a trip to Kyoto or Busan might not be in the cards for your but do check and see what is going on in your area. Guaranteed there will be a few groups going to shoot, so join there and see what you come up with!