Photography Project: Composing a single flower


There are guidelines and techniques to photographing a single flower close-up.  But like anything in photography, once you understand the “rules”, they are meant to be broken.

This beautiful white dahlia was showy.  It was the size of a dinner plate and cost a fortune.  I was determined to photograph it as much as I could.  You will see in some of my images the bloom starts to look tired as the petals brown and shrivel.

The images below were taken with either a Canon 180mm or 100 mm macro lens.

Guideline #1:  place the center of the flower off-center and fill the frame.  I usually like to place the center of the bloom on the left-side of the image.  There is no particular reason, perhaps because I read left-to-right.  I fill the frame with the bloom, unless there is a beautiful complimentary background, and then I let the background peak through for a small portion of the frame.


Guideline #2:  Don’t always follow Guideline #1.  If I have a particularly complex and interesting bloom, I will sometimes place the center of the flower….dead center.  For this dahlia, the petals. were sculptural, and almost had a sense of movement.  I chose to fill the frame to keep the focus on the petals.  Because this is a white dahlia, I made the image monochromatic, and then added a cool tone to the second image.


Guideline #3:  Photograph the flower against an interesting background, and intentionally place the flower so the bloom and background are balanced.  The subject is still the flower, but the two different backgrounds add a texture and contrast.  I thought thebackground deserved more visual presence in the image than a mere “peek through”.


Three simple composition techniques to help jump start your creative juices.


  1. Haslup Jack

    Thank you so much for your sharing your work. I have learned much and anxious to try it out. You should consider doing videos, or have you done some? I love trying to be creative with flowers. At my age, 85, most of my photography takes place in our home. Not complaining, just want to say that photography can be for everyone.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    Jack Haslup


  2. pamphotography

    Hi Jack, thank you for the kind words. I have not tried video; I have been thinking about taking pictures of my set-up and process as a way of showing people how I work. I agree with you about photography is for anyone! When Peter and I aren’t on vacation, I also do most of my photography in my house. I love trying new creative projects that I can do at home – you don’t have to worry about the weather cooperating, and you know you will always have a good subject because you planned for it ahead of time. Let me know if you have questions, or things you’re trying – I might try it too!

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