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Finding focus when you photograph the Floriade floral frenzy

Christine Aldred 22 September 2019
Floriade

Floriade can be a challenge for photographers but there’s help at hand. Photo: Christine Aldred.

Hands up if you’ve visited Canberra’s annual floral spectacle and taken dozens of photos, only to be disappointed with the results when you look at them at home?

Wow! That many?! OK, hands down. Grab your camera.

With a multitude of colours, wide expanses of flower beds and a million blooms on offer, it’s easy to assume capturing amazing shots is a simple feat, but this isn’t always the case.

If you’ve ever been disappointed by your Floriade snaps or wondered how to improve your floral photography, help is at hand.

Two of Canberra’s best professional photographers have been photographing the floral glories of Floriade for decades and have a wealth of tips to help you find focus and see flower photography through a different lens … and take home some terrific shots at the end of the day.

Australian Institute of Professional Photographers members Ben Kopilow of Fusion Photography and Geoff Comfort of Geoff Comfort Photography have again teamed up with Floriade to present a number of well-structured workshops early each Saturday during Floriade.

The two have a long association with Floriade, having presented these workshops for the last 10 years, honing their skills and the messages to some key elements informed by decades of professional practice.

Simplicity can be the key to photographing Floriade’s blooms. Photo: Ben Kopilow, Fusion Photography.

In fact, it was Floriade that first hooked Ben into photography nearly two decades ago.

With a new camera in hand and no experience under his belt, he entered a shot of a single flower in the event’s photo competition and ended up with first prize. It was enough to inspire him to start on a new career in photography.

The winning image was a simple one – a solitary bloom – so it’s no surprise Ben cites seeking simplicity as his number one tip for floral photography.

“In photography, often less is more. It allows your image to stand out from the crowd,” Ben says. He even quotes Leonardo da Vinci to back up his view: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

While Geoff also highly values simplicity and focus, his number one tip is to be aware of your background when taking a photo, whether it be a rogue leaf or bit of dirt or someone in the background (the infamous ‘photobombers’).

Geoff also speaks of the importance of light in photography. The word photography itself means ‘drawing with light’ and finding the light is integral to taking a great shot. However, having lots of bright, harsh light in the middle of the day is not so great when photographing flowers, so Geoff has some ideas to counteract this.

“You can soften light with a diffuser, or create your own shade with an umbrella or have a friend create some for you,” says Geoff.

“Take advantage of cloudy days. They provide softer lighting and allow you to more easily capture the shadows and details of flowers.”

You don’t need expensive equipment for great photos at Floriade. Photo: Christine Aldred.

Both photographers stress you don’t need the best gear to get great photos. They believe being creative and thinking about the composition of your photo are all important, and they’re skills you can learn and practice.

“When people come through the gate, they’re often so excited they start snapping madly at the first flowers they see,” says Geoff.

“But it’s important to slow down, have a good look around and find a flower or scene you want to feature, then work out how to compose your image. Rushing means missing details and the details count.”

Some of Ben and Geoff’s other favourite tips include:

  • Look for a focal point or point of interest in your photo
  • Lead the viewer’s eye to where you want them to focus in your photo by using focus or leading lines
  • Think about the light – use shadow, sidelight or backlight for different effects
  • Move around your subject for different perspectives or different views.

Floriade’s beautiful tulips are a photography favourite. Photo: Ben Kopilow, Fusion Photography.

The Floriade photography workshops are held early each Saturday morning before the crowds arrive and to take advantage of the softer early morning light. Starting with a talk and some pointers, the workshops allow lots of time to practice, assistance if needed and constructive critiques.

Even if you can’t make a workshop, next time you venture to Floriade with a camera or phone in hand, take the time to slow down and focus on something small and eradicate distractions. There are a million potential images waiting in the blooms – the challenge is to focus on one that stands out.

To learn more or book your place at the workshops, visit Photography at Floriade. Workshops run each Saturday morning at 6:30 am until 12 October.

Christine Aldred is a Canberra writer, photographer and social media junkie. She adores her home town (despite the chilly winters), travelling, golden retrievers and fancy things. She inhabits cyberspace as @BoomingOn.


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