Studio Portrait Lighting… For Flowers!

The Calla Lily

People have enjoyed the calla lily for hundreds of years. Long, smooth, graceful… are all terms used to describe these beautiful plants.

My goal was to capture the elegance of these beautiful flowers in a unique image. I wanted to show the delicate shape of the buds with their fine linen-like texture.

I also set out to create a quiet, serene image to emphasize the plant’s stately quality.

I choose to bring two flowers into my studio and arrange them in a symmetrical presentation. The first challenge was to use lighting that would capture each bud’s delicate texture.

It can be difficult to capture detail in an all white flower bud. First, you must place your main light to the side of the subject to show its texture and form. Side lighting emphasizes texture and shows form; front lighting hides texture and flattens form.

Second, to capture fine detail in a light-colored subject you need soft, low contrast light. A large light source positioned close to your subject will produce the desired quality of light.

In this image I positioned a large 30 x 40 inch softbox to camera left just out of camera view. Notice how the light gently wraps around the flowers emphasizing the shape and texture of the buds. Also notice the long, smooth highlight down each stem.

This is classic portrait lighting; the same type of lighting setup I often use for people portraits. (If I had my druthers I would photograph only flowers. They never talk back, stay put, and don’t make a fuss. Unfortunately, they don’t pay nearly as well as people.)

The blue background adds a quiet, serene feel to the presentation—just what I was looking for. I started with a dark blue seamless paper lit with a second studio strobe fitted with a 20-degree grid.

The background light is another classic portrait technique. Lighting the background helps create a third dimension. A photograph is two-dimensional—length times width.  A background light creates a sense of depth by visually separating the subject form the background.

The 20-degree grid allowed me to direct light to a small area of the blue seamless paper. Without the grid the entire background would appear evenly lit with no falloff towards the edges.

In the final image shown here, I swapped the blue seamless paper for black. I then added a blue filter to the background light. This created a rich pool of blue light that frames the calla lilies and falls off to black on the edges. I love this effect and often use a colored filter on my background light against black seamless paper. (Red looks really cool!)

I think I have accomplished my goal. When displayed this image is certainly quiet and stately, and the shape and texture of these beautiful buds seems carved into the print.

And if sales are any measure of success, this image has done very well. Should you be interested, prints are available at Source Light Images.

Until next time,



One Response to “Studio Portrait Lighting… For Flowers!”

  1. Canon T3 review Says:

    Canon T3 review

    Studio Portrait Lighting… For Flowers! | RG’s Digital Photography Tips

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