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Make abstract flower photography using close-up filters

The message How to make abstract flower photography using close-up filters first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Charlie Moss.

Photographing flowers is a passion for many photographers. The time you spend in the garden with your camera can almost become a form of meditative practice as you compose images in the midst of nature. It is no wonder that so many photographers long to take beautiful flower photos. But taking close-up photos of flowers can be an expensive affair. Many tutorials will tell you that you need specialized macro lenses, patented macro extension tubes, or converters to reverse a lens that you already have. However, the use of close-up filters is a great alternative.

using-close-up-filters-for-flower photography

Close-up filters are an option for macro photography that rarely appears in the self-study list. Many will tell you that they deteriorate the final image too much; they cause distortion and focus problems. However, in this article I am going to claim that these filters can enable you to think in a more abstract way while embracing their unique and imperfect qualities!

What are close-up filters?

Close-up filters can also be called close-up lenses or macro filters. They are essentially a magnifying glass that is screwed into the filter thread on the front of your lens.

using-close-up-filters-for-flower photography

When you buy a set of close-up filters, you need to know on which lens you will use them. This is because you purchase them based on the filter size of that lens. I suggest choosing a standard zoom or prime lens in the range of 50 mm to 100 mm and buying your filters for the thread size of that specific lens.

Close-up filters differ from budget extension tubes in one important way – you do not lose electronic control over your lens. That means that the auto focus (almost) still works and that the aperture control in your camera settings still works. Because budget extension tubes do not transfer an electronic signal between your camera and your lens, you must use this manually. For that reason I prefer close-up filters – it makes changing your settings easier!

using-close-up-filters-for-flower photography

The photo on the left was taken with the Fujifilm 35 mm f1.4 lens only. The image on the right had a +10 close-up filter that was screwed onto the front of the lens.

The last thing you need to know about close-up filters is that they have different magnification strengths – just like when buying a magnifying glass. The higher the number, the more you enlarge your subject and the closer you can get. All images in this article are made with a close-up filter of +10 on a Fujifilm 35 mm f1.4 lens (roughly equivalent to a 50 mm lens on a full-frame camera).

Why take abstract photos ' s?

Abstract photos can really help to free you from the general "rules" of photography. You can start thinking outside the box without wondering if an image is sharp enough everywhere, or if the colors are displayed perfectly.

Make abstract flower photography using close-up filters

That does not mean that abstract photography is a way to "save" a bad photo. So much thought and consideration must be included in an abstract as in a more traditional image.

Once you have learned to let go of the rules, you can find it relaxing by expressing yourself in color, shape and texture. Experimenting with abstract photography can bring a whole new dimension to your work. You can even think differently about other types of photography. You will be much more careful if you put colors and lines in images in the future if you spend some time making abstract compositions.

Tips for photographing flowers

Once you've screwed your close-up filter on the front of your lens, go outside for a play. In the beginning you don't need a tripod – raise your ISO and try to hold a few close-ups in one day with clear but cloudy light (or of course take pictures in the shade).

Focus on the shot

I recommend turning off your autofocus. We are going to work with a very shallow depth of field and that means that your camera often locks focus on something that you don't want.

Make abstract flower photography using close-up filters

Instead, you can use your body to move the subject in and out of focus. Carefully lean a fraction closer or further away, and you will see different parts of the images go in and out of focus. It takes a little practice to get the hang of it, but after a while it will feel very natural.

If you are a bit unstable and have trouble focusing the right part of the image, try making a burst of three or five photos and select the best later. You can also use a tripod if you want (if it is a very calm day without wind). However, I think that a tripod can often hinder creativity when you try to think quickly and are looking for new and fascinating angles and compositions.

Select an aperture

The aperture setting you choose can change the whole feeling of an image. When working so close to a subject, the depth of field can only be a few millimeters thin.

using-close-up-filters-for-flower photography

By using a very shallow depth of field, you can draw attention to only one part of a scene and completely blur the background and foreground. However, if you shoot up close, it may mean that not the entire flower or the entire object is in focus. That does not mean that it is a bad thing – only picking a small part of the flower to focus can be a stylistic choice.

What can be interesting is the way in which the close-up filters work together with a wide open lens. You begin to get these hazy, dreamy images that are somewhat unpredictable. It's almost like a Lensbaby velvet in some ways – or maybe a little bit like Vaseline on your lens!

Composition is central

Because abstract photography often takes a subject and then makes it unrecognizable, you only have the composition and colors left. That means you have to start thinking about how you can combine shape, lines, shape, textures and colors to express emotions or tell stories. You can no longer rely on recognizable and trusted objects.

There are many composition rules to study and put into practice. I have always found it useful to spend as much time as possible watching other people's art (both in galleries and online) and trying to understand what makes a composition enjoyable. You do not need to know all the rules for the composition by name. But having an idea of ​​how the position of elements in the frame and the color wheel work together to create interesting compositions can be a huge help in photographing abstracts.

using-close-up-filters-for-flower photography

When shooting digitally, do not be afraid to take multiple images of the same scene and resist subjects. Try placing the main focus on different parts of the image (including blurry foreground elements) and see how different aperture settings look like.

You can also consider editing your photos afterwards to change the colors in the image. A slight color shift, some added noise or a touch of contrast at the focal point can really change the mood of the shot.

So for a very small investment (especially when compared to the rest of your camera equipment), you can open up a new world of artistic abstract photography by using close-up filters. Also, better than that, it can happen entirely in your front yard!

Let us know if you take photos ' s inspired by this article – post the results in the comments below!

using-close-up-filters-for-flower photography

The message How to make abstract flower photography using close-up filters first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Charlie Moss.

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