Floral photography is stunning to observe through the lens and in print. The colors and vibrancy of petals, pollen, and stamens make for excellent compositions.
It’s no wonder it’s a favorite subject for micro four-third photographers.
If you are new to photography, then you might be wondering how to take beautiful floral photography with your micro four-thirds (m43) camera?
The small world of flowers is unfortunately unobtainable from kit lenses, but this should not stop you from getting closer to nature through experimenting with different focal lengths.
There are ways to photograph flowers with your existing glass; however, in many cases, having a dedicated macro lens or extension tube is the best option for floral photography.
In this article, we will explore some ways you can get your M43 camera closer to flowers.
By the end of this article, you will have a greater understanding of how to photograph flowers and nature’s beauty using different tools and techniques.
How to Capture Floral Photography with your M43 Camera
Before we look at the equipment you may need, it’s essential to understand how to use your micro four-thirds camera.
Determining the correct settings beforehand can save you a lot of time in the field when photographing little floral intricacies. The first step to setting up your m43 camera for floral photography is adjusting your camera’s ISO.
Setting Your ISO to an Automatic Range
Try setting your ISO to Auto. Most micro four-thirds cameras will be able to program a minimum and maximum ISO range on the menu. We would recommend programming an ISO range of ISO 200 – ISO 1600.
By doing this, you will take out one of the main settings to focus on so you can turn your attention to capturing more flower images.
Switch Your Shutter Speed to Automatic and Set a Minimum Speed
Tagging on to the Auto ISO setting will typically be a programmable minimum shutter speed. (If the minimum shutter speed cannot be achieved the m43 camera will automatically increase the ISO until it can be).
As a general guide, it is recommended to set the minimum shutter speed to 1/60 or 1/80 of a second. Any slower and you could introduce blur from handheld movements.
If you are using a tripod as we will explain later, this won’t be a problem.
Manually Control Your Aperture for Creative Depth of Field Control
Most floral photography is photographed at a shallow depth of field, meaning the flower will be sharp, and the background will be blurred.
This look helps separate flowers from the environment, which in many cases is essential for floral photographing. To achieve this look, an aperture around f/2 or f/2.8 is highly desirable.
If you want more of the flower in focus, decreasing the aperture to f/5.6 or f/8 is something you will have to do. Just make sure you will have sufficient light at these f-stops.
Following the recommended m43 camera settings, you need to turn your attention to your micro four-thirds lens choice.
There are two lens options for floral photography, using macro extension tubes or dedicated macro lenses.
How You Can Get Closer with m43 Macro Extension Tubes
By attaching an extension tube between your micro four-thirds camera and your kit lens, you increase the distance from the rear element of your m43 lens to the sensor on your micro four-thirds camera.
The result from the extension tube is a magnification of focal length, enabling you to get much closer to flowers. The other advantage of extension tubes is their lower price in comparison to dedicated macro lenses.
As this is the case, they are a perfect way to get started in floral photography.
There are numerous brands with the leading manufacturers being Olympus and Panasonic. The most popular setup for m43 users is the M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 with the Olympus MCON-PO2 Macro Converter attached.
In saying this considering the extension tube doesn’t contain any glass, obtaining a third-party version would be fine.
If you are going down this road, make sure that the electronic components are operational when mounting the extension tube to your m43 camera.
This feature, along with weather sealing is the main difference between a third-party extension tube and a ‘name’ brand.
Purchase a Macro Specific Lens for Floral Photography
A macro lens is completely different from a normal lens. The internal optics are found in one group compared to several.
This grouping allows the photographer to get close to flowers physically, usually around 1 cm away. Some of the most popular lenses for micro four-thirds cameras include:
- Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm f/2.8
- Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 30mm f/3.5 Macro ED MSC
- Lumix G Macro 30mm f/2.8 ASPH O.I.S.
- Panasonic Leica DG Macro-Elmarit 45mm f/2.8 ASPH MEGA O.I.S.
All these lenses are dedicated macro lenses that offer a short focus distance, essentially allowing you to get closer to flowers.
Another feature that separates micro four third macro lenses from the rest is their wide apertures (typically at an aperture rating of f/2.8).
This is great because, in the case of these lenses, where there is plenty of light, faster shutter speeds are achievable. The benefit of a faster shutter speed is blur-free images.
Use a Tripod to Keep Your m43 Camera Steady For Blur-Free Images
One of the pieces of equipment for any floral photographer is a sturdy, versatile tripod along with a ball head as most flowers are at the ground level.
It is therefore vital to look for tripod legs that can move independently from each other, thus getting you closer to the flowers.
If you are hiking long distances in search of wildflowers, then a lightweight carbon fiber construction is recommended.
A ball head is the best tripod head to use for floral photography as it offers more versatility than most systems
Flowers often move in the wind, so having the ability to move your m43 camera quickly can save a lot of headaches.
Make Sure You Have Sufficient Lighting for Floral Photography
Something many photographers don’t think about is the lighting. When they get closer to a subject, the amount of light between the subject and the m43 sensor in the camera decreases.
To rectify the lack of lighting, use either a lens-mounted twin flash, LED lights, or inexpensive reflector/diffuser.
A standard floral photography lighting setup should consist of at least two flash heads or continuous lights, one for the left of the flower and the other for the right. The dual lighting setup will help to reduce shadows.
If you decide to bounce available light on the flower, use a large reflector or diffuser, as this will soften any shadows, you might see on petals.
In terms of lighting equipment, Olympus leads the way for m43 users. For instance, if you are after a top of the line product, then the Olympus STF-8 Macro Flash is an excellent option for the following lenses:
- M.Zuiko Digital ED 30mm F3.5 Macro
- M.Zuiko Digital ED 60mm F2.8 Macro
- M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
If you want to save some money and use an LED system, the Olympus MAL-1 Macro Arm Light could be an ideal choice.
The lights mount onto the top of your m43 camera, and flexible arms allow the photographer to shape the light in any direction. This setup is often the most common for capturing beautiful floral photography.
Once you have all these elements in place, floral photography becomes a joy. One last tip we would like to share is to make sure you get down to the level of the flowers.
By doing so, you create a more significant depth of field between the flower and the background.
The result will be a completely blurred background as opposed to photographing a flower while standing up – in this situation, the background and the flower appear sharp.