Story behind the shot.

Photographer James Sheppard lets us in on the secrets behind his beautiful flower shot.

What made you decide to take this lovely photo?

I went for a day out at Exbury Gardens in Hampshire back in May. I had heard that the spring flowers were in full bloom, so I took my camera to get some colourful floral shots. I came across these pink azaleas, and decided that they would make a great macro subject due to the beautiful detail on the petals and in the centre of the flower.

What camera and settings did you use to get these results?

I was using my Nikon D800 and Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro lens. I didn’t have my tripod, so had to set a fast shutter speed of 1/250sec to keep the shot sharp while shooting handheld. The aperture I used was f5, which kept the important parts of the flower in focus but created a shallow depth of field to blur out the background.

Did you have any problems when taking the shot?

My first attempt came out a little underexposed as the flower was in the shade, so I boosted my ISO up to 400 to brighten it. Focusing was also a little tricky as I was so close to my subject. It took a bit of time to manually focus on the correct part of the flower, but I am pleased that I managed to keep the flower’s stigma sharp.What do you like most about this photograph?

I love the circular blur in the background that was created by using a wide aperture. I think it adds another element to the photo and disguises the distracting leaves in the background. I also quite like how not all of the flower is in focus, giving just a hint of its shape and colour and drawing the viewer’s attention to the detail in the centre.

Why did you decide to frame the image like this?

I wanted to shoot just one of the flowers on the plant to keep the photo simple with just one point of focus, so I positioned it at the edge of the frame to cut the rest of them out. I think that this gives the shot more of an impact and guides the viewer’s eyes from one side of the frame to the other, for a more engaging composition.

Do you have tips for others wanting to take macro shots?

A wide aperture is great for blurring the background, but you need to make sure that is it narrow enough to keep the important parts of your photo in focus, especially if you are filling the frame with your subject. Also, try to shoot the flowers on a still day, as it can be very difficult to focus if they are blowing about in the wind.

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