Sunflower photography tips – How to take great sunflower photos
Sunflowers offer incredible photo opportunities to a photographer with a bit of imagination and planning. Sunrise to sunset and every bit of light in between, knowing how to take great sunflower photos in the sunflower fields is the key to success. Our sunflower photography tips will help.
Sunflowers inspire imagination and delight, and the vast fields of yellow draw photographers like moths to a flame. But taking captivating sunflower field photos is not the easiest. Sure, you can always snap a selfie with a swath of golden sunflowers behind you, or take a shot of a sunflower up close, but a really good photo takes a little planning – and maybe an alarm clock. Are you game?
First, despite information to the contrary, it is only the young sunflowers that turn their heads to keep facing the sun throughout the day, i.e. facing east to greet the sunrise then gradually turning west for the sunset, then returning to face east again for the next sunrise. That process is called heliotropism. Older flowers always face east. And those are mostly the tall, beautiful stalks with flowers you will want photos of – the tall stalks with single flowers are female, while the smaller ones every few rows are males that do the pollinating. Multi-headed flowers are more frequently uncultivated types.
Here are a few photo tips to help you take great sunflower field photos once you’ve scouted out the fields and where and when sunset and sunrise will be.
Quick sunflower photography tips
>> Go at sunrise – What that east-facing process means is that sunrise will always be the best time since those cheery golden yellow flowers will then also be bathed in that beautiful light of the so-called “golden hour,” which is the hour or so right after the sun pops up over the horizon or whatever trees or mountains are to the east, or before it sinks below the horizon at sunset. We hope you are an early bird!
>> Sunset can be OK too – Just realize that you will be looking INTO the sun to get the flowerheads, assuming you are facing west. If you can get the sun low enough, you can also get some great sunbursts through the plants. Of course, getting the backs of the flowers with a starburst sun isn’t bad either for a different effect.
>> Watch out for bees and mosquitos – The other advantage of sunrise is, one, there will be fewer bees and, two, there will likely be fewer mosquitos. Either way, be sure you have long sleeves and consider insect repellent or insect-repellent clothing in case those nasty biting bugs are out. And take advantage of those bees when they start showing up for some nice close-ups.
>> Bring a ladder or have a vehicle you can stand on – This is one of our top sunflower photography tips! Getting high up over the tall stalks (5-9 feet or so) can add great perspective and allow you to see more yellow flowers. The feature photo at the top shows Therese finding her balance on a ladder for her sunflower field photos with an expanse of flowers in front of her (staying respectfully away from the fields, though). However, a truck bed for a bit of added height works, too, and can be shared, as our silhouettes show, below.
>> Pick your backdrop – For an epic landscape photo with yellow stretching to the horizon and you should be at a field where you can face west with your back to the sun – Try to find a field where there is a backdrop to the west, too. At Turkovich’s private “field pass” area, the mountains were to the west behind the fields at sunrise. It was magnificent.
>> Try different perspectives – Go for the sweeping yellow fields but don’t forget to get some close-ups, too, particularly if there are bees flying around the flowers. Also consider kneeling and looking up at the flowers, but that doesn’t mean trespassing into the fields!
>> Try different apertures – Quick photography lesson: If your aperture or F-stop is a small number, your focus will not be as deep, so if you have a swath of flowers you can focus on one really nice one so the rest behind it or around it are blurry, or you can focus on something farther away to bring attention to that, leaving the front of the photo out of focus – all creating different dynamic effects. On the other hand, if your aperture is a larger number, you will have most everything front to back in focus.
Get creative. Don’t just snap the first flower you see in a field. Instead, walk along the farm roads (never wade into a field where you can damage sunflowers) and look at the groups that are created by the flowerheads or see how the long rows of flowers move away from you, creating great lines. Play a bit with angles and apertures. And don’t forget to patronize local businesses and enjoy the flowers, too!
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