Although wildflowers are best photographed with an SLR camera, it’s still possible to take some pretty good shots with a plain old point and shoot camera. And, sometimes this may be the only camera you have with you at the time, either because you’re backpacking far into the wilderness and want to travel light, or maybe you haven’t made the jump to an SLR just yet.
The biggest problem you’ll run into with the point and shoot camera is the large depth of field you get from the super small sensor. This limits some of your options, but there’s a few ways to get around it, and as always, light also plays a huge role in the success of a photo.
So, here are a few tips for photographing wildflowers when you’re limited to a point and shoot camera:
#1 – Enable the “Macro mode”
Most point and shoot cameras have a special “macro” mode that allows the lens to focus at a much closer distance. This helps you fill the frame with smaller flowers, and create a more out of focus background (remember the three things that affect depth of field).
#2 – Maximize the zoom on your lens (just optical zoom though!)
Another thing you can do to create a more out of focus background is maximize the zoom on your lens. Make sure you only use optical zoom though. The digital zoom on point and shoot cameras is really just a poor digital interpolation that will likely degrade the quality of your photo.
#3 – Turn off the flash
If you’re in a shaded area, your camera may want to fire the flash if it’s set to auto (the default on most cameras). But, the flash could ruin wildflower photos by creating that weird artificial light look and casting harsh shadows. So, remember to turn off the flash.
#4 – Use the lowest possible ISO speed
Unlike SLRs, point and shoot cameras usually have very poor performance at high ISOs, so to avoid getting super noisy images, make sure you’re shooting at the lowest possible ISO value of your camera.
#5 – Wait for an overcast or cloudy day
Overcast or cloudy skies will help create the perfect lighting conditions for photographing wildflowers. The clouds act as a natural light diffuser that balances the light on the flower (preventing blown highlights and harsh shadows that you’d experience on a bright sunny day).
#6 – Use a light diffuser if you can’t wait for a cloudy day
If you can’t wait for an overcast day, or they rarely occur in your area, you can also make an artificial light diffuser that also works quite well.
#7 – Find a flower with a far away background that contrasts well with the flower’s colors
The background plays an important role in wildflower portraits: it helps draw attention to the main subject, the flower. So, look for a flower that has a background that not only contrasts well with the flower, but is also far away (5 ft or more). The farther away the background is, the better: this will dramatically help you get that out of focus background on a point and shoot camera.
#8 – Take more than one shot (at least 3 or 5)
To help increase your chances of getting a sharp photo, remember to take more than one shot. Even on a seemingly calm day, flowers can be seen bouncing frantically through the air. Taking a couple shots will help ensure you photographed the flower when it was still.
#9 – Find a flower that’s in good shape
There’s always creatures that like to eat flowers, so spend some time looking for one that’s in good shape (e.g. not missing petals). Some flowers are also more saturated than others of the same species, so be on the lookout for these gems.
What did I miss?
If you have another favorite tip for photographing wildflowers with a point and shoot camera, please share it with us by leaving a comment below! Thanks 🙂
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, computer scientist, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of Southern California.