This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
Special Background For Flowers. Where it is intended to make numerous flower studies, a special background of some nature should be provided. A simple arrangement on the principle of a copying board may be constructed in the following manner: Take a piece of wood not less than one inch thick, and cut it 10 inches wide and 20 inches long. This is to be used as the support. In the middle of it, and running the longest way, nail a board, or boards, which will give a background dimension of 20 x 20 inches. If you are not able to secure a single board of this size, two 10 x 20 inch boards may be used. A one inch strip should be nailed across the top, to bind them together and prevent warping. Cover one side with black velvet, felt or flannel, the other side with white cloth. Tack on the edge only, to prevent the tack heads showing on the face of the board. By using the dark side for light flowers, and the light side for dark flowers, the necessary contrast will be secured. Velvet or flannel is best, because it will absorb rather than reflect light.
Avoiding Heavy Shadows. Heavy shadows can be avoided by exercising care in not placing the flowers too near the background, nor using too strong a light. A white diffusing curtain on the window, and a reflector of white or gray material, will assist you in getting an even illumination. Remember, though, that roundness and relief are secured by employing a broad lighting; i. e., one where the rays of light fall on the flowers from the front as well as side.
Lighting The Flowers. The light should fall on the flowers in exactly the same manner as on a person posed for plain portrait lighting; i. e., you must not have all side light, all top light, nor all front light. A mean between these must be aimed at, so that the light will fall at an angle of 45 degrees, and by employing a little reflected light most excellent results will be secured.
Line Of Beauty And Arrangement. The first and greatest qualification for the floral photographer is that he must have a liking for flowers. It is necessary that he find himself in sympathy with them, must feel the mute appeal they make to his finer sensibilities, or he will get no real beauty into flower photographs. The next qualification is closely allied to the foregoing, and is a feeling for beauty of arrangement, a recognition of the power of line and of the due disposition of tones. It is this which makes flower photography a special branch which should appeal to women, in whom these qualities predominate, though often unconsciously trained and developed. The best possible photograph of a badly arranged group of blossoms can only be a failure, while graceful composition will go far to compensate for poor photography.
Flowers The Subject, Not Vases. One of the mistakes made by the beginner in flower photography is in the selection of showy vases to hold the blossoms. In the majority of flower subjects made by leading photographic artists who spend considerable time along this particular line, you will observe that no vase or other vessel whatsoever is seen; the flowers, and the flowers only, are the subject.
553. There is no real reason why a vase should not be seen; it may help the composition, and is valuable at least for the indication it gives as to how the flowers are supported, explaining positions which otherwise might excite the wonder of the observer, to the ruin of the pictorial effect. But, if a vase is used it must be of the very simplest kind, and on no account one which in its design or decoration will compete with the flowers themselves, which are the true subject of the picture.
554. A much more convenient method of handling this class of work, and especially where flowers are to be photographed singly, will be found in employing an arrangement which will permit placing the flowers on the floor - laying them on the material which is to be used as the background. The camera of course will have to be tilted at right angles to its usual position, so as to take in its field of view the complete arrangement of the flowers.
555. It is possible to obtain a special attachment from photographic dealers, which may be placed on the top of the tripod, permitting the tilting of the camera to any desired angle.