Flower School with Judith Blacklock, BritMums and Gorkana
I feel very lucky when I see nice emails pop into my inbox. As a blogger I get to work on lovely campaigns with like minded companies and as a photographer I have the opportunity to photograph all the things that inspire me.
So can you imagine my reaction when I was invited to speak about floral photography at the BritMums and Gorkana networking event recently in London?! I may have giggled like a little school girl which was most appropriate as we all went back to school that day. But to the most prettiest, sweet smelling, beautiful school surrounded by blowsy blooms, little buds and everything in between.
I started my visit to London the evening before and stayed at The Wellesley hotel in Knightsbridge in a suite overlooking Hyde Park. This hotel is all kinds of fabulous. It has glamour, history, oozes London sophistication and I was sorely tempted to take a photo of the doorman in his top hat carrying my baking tray backgrounds into the lobby! I felt like a princess, going to bed under sheets you almost didn't want to wrinkle. I loved having dinner by myself, people watching and for the first time in as long as I can remember, read a magazine cover to cover.
Then I slipped upstairs and couldn't resist a soak in the marble edged bath with a indulgent amount of bubbles and made use of the white fluffy robe before a lovely unbroken night's sleep!
The event took place at the Judith Blacklock Flower School in Knightsbridge. Hidden down a cobbled side street away from the hustle and bustle is the perfect space for floral lovers to come and learn. Judith is to floristry what Martha Stewart is to craft. An energetic, charismatic teacher with patience and humour and the utmost professionalism.
I had the pleasure of chatting to Judith and within minutes we were like 2 excited puppies bouncing ideas off each other and making a wonderful connection.
The event brought together representatives from a number of brands and PR agencies with bloggers from the BritMums community. It was lovely to see some familiar faces and squeeze in belated catch ups over foliage and oasis. And it was great to meet new faces and exchange details for the future.
Judith is a master. Effortlessly, she whipped together the most breathtaking hand tied floral bouquet which I couldn’t resist asking what it would sell for in a local florists! A stunning arrangement that would take me hours to perfect and talked us through tips and ticks to keep your flowers alive for longer, dispelling the myths of putting bleach or lemonade to your vase of water.
No no no! Flowers do not like sugar so steer clear!
There was a real buzz of excitement in the room and a sense of pride from everyone, when they started snapping their cupcake arrangements. I shared my thoughts from my experience of photographing florals and brought along a little selection of props for people to play with.
In case you missed it here are my top 5 tips for photographing flowers:
1. LIGHT - botanicals always look better in natural light. NOT direct sunlight, nice soft, diffused light. Think cloudy but bright skies or a sunny day by the window. But pin or stick a piece of voile or muslin to the window to soften those harsh sun rays. Have a play. In direct sunlight you’ll see really harsh shadows and lines over your petals and colours can see flat. If you over exposure your flowers you’ll burn them out. Whites will look ghostly and vibrant colours will look flat with no detail. Use a reflector at the window too. A cake board does exactly the same job if you want a smaller, cheaper alternative. Gold for warm light and silver for cooler light bouncing off the board.
2. COMPOSITION - flowers are the best subject to play with! Stick them to walls, bend them, lay them in patterns, have fun! Remember if you are photographing them in a vase, make your tallest stem the same height as the vase. Embrace the rule of thirds and negative space, use tall straight stems as a natural leading line and think about what frames your background. Be careful to not let the background distract from your flowers. Tidy the kitchen surface, shut doors that show everyday clutter. In photography terms odd numbers are the magic numbers (except a pair which is an annoying exception to the rule) and try and create natural triangles in your image. So in a bunch of flowers find three of the same colour for example, that make a triangle shape in amongst the foliage. Play with the viewpoint and move around your flowers, taking photos from lots of angles. The more the better!
I have a new #backtobasics post covering composition coming up this week so check back in for a much more detailed discussion about composition.
3. APERTURE - play around with your camera on the Aperture priority setting. Florals have such detail and creating a beautifully blurred background with a lower Aperture can transform your photo. You can create the same effect on your phone too if you use Instagram and the tilt shift editing tool. Check out this post on What is Aperture if you are not too sure! Sometimes flowers have lots of layers of detail and you need a higher Aperture to get all those layers in sharp focus. To still get that blurry background you need to move your flowers or vase far away from your background, like 10-15 feet if possible, to create that separation.
4. EQUIPMENT - photographing florals outside is wonderful, but the wind is not your friend! It is definitely worth using a tripod for outdoor floral photography. Flowers have incredible detail and you may be pleased to know that high quality camera phones can capture that macro detail that often DSLR's will need a specific macro lens for. You can buy extra lenses for your phones and polarising filters for your DSLR will help reduce glare and improve the ability to capture the depth of colour. Don't be afraid to be "that person" lying on the ground with a tripod legs splayed to bursting point. Just think of the photos you will capture!
5. PRACTISE - I try and take daily pictures of the flowers in my home and garden every day which I share on my Instagram feed. And I try and take myself off for half an hour over the weekend and practise in different light conditions and play with composition. It's therapeutic and honestly will help improve your technical skills. Cut flowers are the best still life because they are still! They don't answer back, they don't need bribing with chocolate and they make for beautiful images you will be proud of. Ooh and don't forget to edit!
It is not cheating to edit your photos!
I tweak my phone images with a little brightening, a little sharpening, a little more contrast and it's time well spent. You'll be amazed at how subtle editing processes like altering your white balance, playing with exposure and saturation can make a big difference.
Thank you for having me at such a lovely event BritMums and Gorkana.