Saturday, August 22, 2009

Take Your Best Shot

I've been asked several times how to create the dark background behind many of the desert flower pics I take and my usual answer is, "It depends." 


It depends on the time of day, it depends on your camera settings and, ultimately, it depends on your camera and the adjustments it will allow. The key to getting these results is the use of spot metering as opposed to metering in wide area mode.

The simplest solution is illustrated by the photo of the Palmer penstemon. Flash is used on a camera with through-the-lense (TTL) metering.  Spot exposure aimed at the bright flower will produce a sharp subject against an unlit background.

Another technique is equally simple. Again using spot metering, expose for the brightest part of a white, or very bright, element of the flower. If your camera offers the feature, partially depress the shutter release button to hold the exposure and focus while you better frame the subject. Auto exposure will close down the aperture (and speed up the shutter) so that a darker background will result in a high-contrast picture. The prickle poppy jumps out of its background with no distracting elements.

It's always fun to experiment and see what you get. Digital cameras give you the freedom to produce nearly any effect you want and also the pitfalls that go with it. In this case, the danger is in the tendency for all your flower photos to have a guidebook quality...good only in moderation.
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