Snap an action-packed still life at home in only a matter of minutes
Flowers are arguably one of the most popular photographic subjects and can be encompassed within a host of genres including, macro, landscapes and still life. Thanks to their detailed textures and naturally bold colours, they are capable of adding an eye-catching element to your shots.
In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to photograph flowers from a fresh perspective by adding water into the mix. This image was taken by simply submerging flowers at speed into a water-filled tank. It’s an action-packed technique that only takes minutes to set up and what’s more, you’re likely to have all the ingredients to a great shot at home already. To create your own creative flower shot, you’ll need a flat-sided vase or glass tank that’s filled with water, a remotely controlled flashgun to freeze the action, your DSLR, a remote shutter release and artificial flowers.
As this is a trial and error technique, artificial flowers are a necessity, as you’ll find natural flowers will quickly lose their form due to the continuous dunking. You’ll also need plenty of memory card space. Follow these steps to find out how to re-create the effect at home.
What you’ll need
Remote shutter release
Flashgun and stand
Remote flash trigger
Tank or flat-sided vase filled with water
1 Position your backdrop Once you have collected all of the items for you shoot, you can set up a home studio space. Start by securing a coloured piece of card against a wall, which will be the backdrop to your shot. Place a tank or flat-sided vase on the flat surface in front and fill with water.
2 Set up your tripod Set your camera up on a sturdy tripod in front of the vase or tank and position your flashgun or studio flash head to one side. Attach the remote flash trigger to the flashgun and your camera’s hotshoe so that it fires remotely as you shoot. Now select your flashgun’s Manual mode.
3 Adjust your flashgun settings Set the flashgun to half-power – you can reduce or increase this later, if necessary. Position your flashgun to one side of the tank. Now select the Remote Shutter Release mode on your camera, which will free up your hands as you shoot so that you can dunk the flowers in the water as you take the shot.
4 Select Manual mode Set your camera to Manual mode (M) and adjust your exposure settings by selecting f16, 1/200sec and a low ISO. Take a test shot of the set-up to ensure the flash fires and the scene is well lit. Check results and adjust your exposure if necessary.
5 Focus your camera To ensure sharp shots, position the flowers in the water and focus on them using autofocus. Once focus is set, switch your focus to Manual mode to prevent the camera from hunting. Avoid moving the lens from here on to keep the focus accurate.
6 Shoot the action Once you’re set up and your exposure and flash settings are correct, you can begin dunking the flowers in the water while releasing the shutter remotely. Dunk the flowers in a straight, vertical direction and twist the stem when you pull them up to create more bubbles.
Fire the flash remotely using a flash trigger
Flash is essential to freeze the flower action indoors, so you’ll need a single studio head or a portable flashgun. A wireless trigger is a necessity as it will enable you to keep the flash off-camera.
You’ll need to attach one trigger to the bottom of your flashgun and the other to your camera’s hotshoe. Ensure that they are both set to the same channel so the camera can communicate with the flash.
Ensure your camera is also set to single frame capture as opposed to continuous or burst. Burst mode settings are commonly used with action photography, but the flash is unlikely to recycle quick enough for every frame.
1 Rotate the image and crop In Photoshop rotate the image via Image>Image Rotation>180. Pick the Crop tool, hold down Shift and drag in one of the anchor points to crop out the edges of the tank.
2 Select the Clone Stamp Duplicate the background layer and then select the Clone Stamp tool. Adjust the Size and select a high Opacity. Zoom into your image and hold down the Alt key to select a clear area of background.
3 Remove unwanted marks Now slowly paint over areas you want to remove in the image, such as tank or vase edges and any unwanted water marks. You can also remove any frayed edges around the flower petals. Now duplicate the layer.
4 Sharpen your shot Go to Filter>Other>High Pass and increase the slider to 8.0 Pixel Radius then click OK. In the Layer Blending Mode options, select Hard Light – you can then adjust the layer’s Opacity if necessary.