So, +Levi Moore
and I were chatting a bit not long ago, and during the course of our discussion, the subject of how I shoot flowers came up. I promised that I would eventually write some of that process down. I have to admit that I may
have cheated a bit, because I have in the past committed some of this to electronic pen-and-paper.
My workflow is pretty simple. For flowers, I like dramatic lighting, so I'll do most of the work in the camera -- I rely on artificial light to get the effect I want. I typically hold the flash in one hand, and I have a Demb Flip-It attached to direct the light and increase the "apparent size" of the light source. The flash is always at low power -- 1/8 is the highest I'll set it. Then I play with its position, direction, and distance from the subject until I get the effect I want. I usually have a pretty good idea of how I want the light to look, so that doesn't take very long to achieve -- it had better not take long, because holding my D300 body and my monster 105mm macro lens with one hand is a workout! On the camera settings side, it'll be ISO200, f/8 or f/11, and 1/200 of a second almost every time.
A couple of things about the light, because there are reasons why I shoot how I do. Apparent size of the light source is important for a couple of reasons. If the light is very large in relation to the subject, then two things happen: first, it produces very soft light without harsh shadows, and second, I get a very
drastic light falloff, meaning that only my subject is affected by the light that I'm pushing toward it. The other effect is that the sharpness of the light falloff allows me to ensure that the background is (almost) pure black. I keep the main portion of my subject far enough away from any background elements that might be lit by the flash that they disappear completely.
From there, it's off to Lightroom for processing. I typically use the Basic settings most -- the Highlight, Shadows, Whites, and Blacks sliders. I deepen Blacks and Shadows a bit most of the time, and sometimes that's enough. I might work a little with the Tone Curve sliders if I want a more harsh contrast. Then it's off to the Saturation sliders -- not much to play with there, usually, but I do sometimes tweak individual colour levels a bit. Two more things: back to the Basic settings, and punch the Clarity slider up. Then off to the Detail section and adjust Sharpening. Then I'm done, usually. I might add a bit of Noise Reduction, but the D300 shoots a clean photo at ISO200, which is where I live for this type of shot. My favourite adjustment is this: the Radial Filter. It's like a soft-focus spotlight that allows me to adjust the light (among other things ... but mostly light) selectively across any part of the image. That's a new thing in LR5, and I love it.
That's my "vanilla" process. If I want different looks, I can play with the Hue sliders, convert to B&W and use Split Toning, or look at vignettes or grain in the Effects palette. I can also paint corrections on with the Adjustment Brush. Every photo demands different alterations, and it's always fun to find what can come out of the original work, no matter how it looks at the end.
One more thing. This is how the front end of my process looks some days. :-)