A Dutch masters opulent wedding urn of real summer roses, peonies and foxgloves, arranged and photographed by Tuckshop Flowers.

My most recent wedding has left me with a lasting legacy in the form of the photo above, which is possibly my favourite flower pic to date.  It made all the shifting around of ‘stuff’ to clear the background all worthwhile – my cluttered life is something I always curse when the time comes to photograph my flowers before sending them off on their wedding way!

When photographing any arrangement, it’s important that the flowers are what draw the eye, not the plug socket in the lower left corner, or that plant pot you forgot to put away before you got your camera out.  Which makes photographing them a right royal pain in my workshop (full of containers, props, flower buckets and a rising tide of what my husband terms ‘floristry tat’), and in my higgledy piggledy Victorian house which has  no clear spaces or uninterrupted walls to act as clear backgrounds.

But one thing I have discovered in the last couple of years, is that the darkness of my workshop, converted from what was previously a large wooden garage, is brilliant for dramatic lighting, as long as a tripod is used to hold the camera still enough for a long exposure shot.  The double doors, when opened to let the sunlight in, create this specatularly moody effect.  The light  never reaches far enough to actually flood the space – which is why it remained unusable for floristry purposes until I had electric lighting installed – but it lets shafts of sunshine fall into the dark interior, catching details of arrangements in the most beautiful chiaroscuro fashion.

So to set up the photograph, in addition to clearing space, I covered the unglamorous but practical rubber floor matting with a peachy damask table cloth (recently rediscovered, thanks to loaning it to Flowers from the Farm for their triumphant Gold-winning display at BBC Gardeners World Live, earlier this month).  In addition to masking the floor tiles, it also adds texture and a lovely reflective sheen to the shot.  I also hung a vertical white sheet to the left side of the arrangement partly to reflect slightly more light, but mainly to hide the piles of clutter which actually lurked behind it.  You really don’t want to see my step ladder and folding chair as background….

I stood the arrangement in front of my dark wooden chest of drawers, and chose these mainly because they were the largest visually pleasing expanse with the least clutter in front of them to shift.  Having seen how they work here, rest assured I’ll be using them as a backdrop again in future – they recede beautifully in the darkness, but add a bit of Flemish looking detail for the eye that wants to peer into the depths of photo.

For the technical stuff, I used a standard 18-55mm zoom lens, set to 55mm to allow the widest angle, and set it on a tripod, and used the 2 second self timer delay to avoid any camera shake when I depressed the shutter.  I can’t remember the exact exposure I used, but it was a lot longer than I could have used if I’d held the camera manually ( anything less than a sixtieth of a second is prone to showing blurry camera shake).  The self timer  tip was something I rediscovered when I followed Emma Davies’ free ‘A Year with My Camera’ online photography course – which I’d highly recommend to anyone who wants to sharpen their photography skills at any level.

As for this pic, it brought a tear to the bride’s mother’s eye, which is all I can ask of any photo!

Painting with flowers

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