Inspired by Annie Spratt
I discovered Annie Spratt's work a while ago through Unsplash, one of my favourite free stock photography sites, and was taken with her story and her beautiful travel photography. Just recently I was reminded of her work once again and found myself mesmerised by a set of moody floral shots. She called it her 'brooding blossoms' phase. The combination of the dark background with the flower in close-up focus in the foreground makes a striking and whimsical image. And I love how the flowers don't look at all staged or styled. I can't be sure of this, but I suspect she took these in the wild.
In cases where photographers have allowed for it, Unsplash lets you view the settings of the images. I went through Annie Spratts 'brooding blossoms' series and had a look at the kind of camera settings she was using. I felt inspired to go out and take my own set of floral portraits using her technique. I noted that she was using a 50mm lens, with a f/2.8 aperture setting, ISO of 100 and a very high shutter speed.
Armed with this information, I set off late on a Saturday afternoon to some gardens nearby to see if I could replicate that moody look.
Some surprising results
It was probably a little too late in the day to have gone out (next time I'll definitely go out a bit earlier), so the light was fading quite rapidly. But I followed my plan and stuck to the settings I'd decided. I wish I knew more flower names, but some that I came across (I think!) were cannas, foxgloves, plumbago, agapanthus, anthuriums and some kind of strange waxy looking flower growing from a tree.
I think my favourites were the cannas. I have never been the hugest fan of cannas - we had huge colour-coded beds of them in our garden when I was growing up (I think it was all the rage in the 80's). But close up, these flowers are really quite spectacular. They have all sorts of textures and patterns, with two or three blooms clustered together on a stem, each in a different phase of blossoming.
Edits - before and after
I think this edit is quite minimal. The main thing I did was work with the 'Tone Curve' in Lightroom to create that matte, hazy shadow effect. I also brought the highlights right down to allow for more detail in the petal to show up. Instead of editing out the background leaves entirely, I thought it worked quite well to keep them in very faintly to give the flower a sense of context. Here's the 'before' and 'after'. I've also shared screenshots of my editing panel if you're interested.
And one more...
Here's one more 'before' and 'after'. I love how the flower is hidden by the leaf in this image. It was quite camera shy.
Favourites of the day
I can't tell you how excited I was to see the final images. I was really surprised at how keeping the shutter speed way higher than usual I could get such a dramatic effect and with so little editing. I did notice that this technique works a lot better with light coloured flowers, like yellows, peaches and whites, and less so with the blues, purples and bright magentas.
That's it for this floral journey.
Before you go, if you'd like to use any of these images, you're welcome to have them for free. You can access them over on Unsplash, where I've started sharing some of my images - just because. :)
Seems like I really have a thing for flowers! You can read some of my other floral blog posts below!