Closeup images of flowers can reveal an array of detail and natural design. So much so that I often isolate my flower subjects from distracting backgrounds as I frame up my shots. I might do this by using exposures that render the background dark, or bright white. If nothing else, a shallow depth of field will usually be enough to not only keep the focus on the flower, but also provide a hint of its environment. So backgrounds for flower photos can either depict the flower with or without context. It just depends on what you’re going for.
Add Interest Using Backgrounds for Flower Photos
For this project, I used a sheet of scrapbooking paper to create an interesting background for my image of a sunflower. Arts and crafts suppliers usually stock specialty papers for art and scrapbook projects. I found a set of 1’x1’ sheets at a local Hobby Lobby on-sale for $0.25 ea. Some of the designs look like real-world textures, others are more abstract. The one I used in this example was a good match for the sunflower. As I framed it up in the viewfinder, I decided that a “later in the day” look to the lighting and coloring would bring it all together.
You can certainly recreate a look like this with a digital cutout and background replacement using software like Photoshop. But using an actual background will make your life a lot easier. In fact, this is one of the easiest ways to create a beautiful flower shot in just a few mins!
Gear & Materials Used
I used a full-frame mirrorless digital camera and a 24-70mm zoom lens for this setup. Lighting was an Impact FF-OF4 Octa 4-Socket Fluorescent Fixture fitted with four Spiral Fluorescent Lamps (32W/120V), modified with an Impact FF-OSB60 Octa Softbox (24”). This is a simple constant light modified with a relatively small octagonal softbox. The background paper I used for this shot is called, Love Nest Block by Glitz Design, and it was one of the ones I purchased at Hobby Lobby. If you look around online, or at your local arts and crafts shop, I’m sure you can find something that will work for you.
How I Shot It
I started by affixing the background graphic paper to a white foam board attached to a light stand. When using these types of backgrounds for flower photos, you can tape the paper up to a wall. Any appropriate graphic will work, but this one caught my eye with its distressed edges and gradual color/texture changes. I positioned the flower in front at a distance of approximately 10” from the background. Later, to get things just right in the frame, you’ll probably have to make slight adjustments as you line everything up.
Next, I setup the light. I used the switches on the back of the light unit to activate two of the four lights. Similar to working with any smaller object, you’ll have to move the light around until you get an effect you like. I lowered and feathered it to achieve the look I wanted, and that resulted in putting the closest part of the front of the softbox about 15” from the flower as shown below. I could’ve used all four of the available lamps in the lighting unit but decided this was enough power to give me the ISO and shutter speeds I’d be comfortable with.
Finally, I setup the camera. I zoomed my 24-70mm lens all the way to 70mm, and moved my tripod so that the front of the lens was approximately 10” from the flower. My camera was set to manual mode and I used Live View to judge exposure and color. I tried different white balance adjustments as I went along.
My exposure settings were ISO 400, aperture f/14, with a shutter speed of 1/15. If your camera produces noticeably less noise at below ISO 400, then you can adjust exposure settings accordingly.
I typically use the self-timer feature with setups like this to avoid blurring the exposure with movement from pressing shutter button.
Below are two of the white balance settings that I applied in-camera; 4700K (left) and 5050K (right). I decided to adjust my color balance for warmer tones overall. Then, I lowered the contrast, pulled down some of the punch of the yellow in the flower, added a slight vignette, and sharpened the image slightly. I made these initial adjustments in Lightroom.
I exported this image into Photoshop in order to use the Smart Sharpen filter (default setting). But you can make most of the adjustments shown with a simple pixel editor or Lightroom. I also added text to turn this image into a shareable inspirational message. Photoshop tweaks included Smart Sharpen, some very light retouching, and adding warmer tones.
Here is an example of what you might want to do with an image like this. A little reminder about mindfulness to share with your friends online.
Using paper backgrounds for flower photos is an easy way to create mood and context for the subject. While this isn’t as necessary when doing macro or close-up work, good background references can really make your flower images shine as you find ways to fill in the frame.
Gear and materials used in this project:
- Sony A7III and Sony 24-70mm f/4 Vario-Tessar T FE OSS
- Impact FF-OF4 Octa 4-Socket Fluorescent Fixture
- Spiral Fluorescent Lamps (32W/120V)
- Impact FF-OSB60 Octa Softbox (24”)
- Mid-Range Boom Arm
- Love Nest Block by Glitz Design
See how I created this and several other flower looks in this video: