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5 Tips for Great Outdoor Flower Shots - Carlo from Sacramento, Calif. E-330 Owner
5 Tips for Great Outdoor Flower Shots

Just because you aren’t equipped with a super high grade professional camera doesn’t mean you can’t create great outdoor flower shots with your Olympus compact camera! In fact, by following these five tips, you will be on your way to capturing brilliant shots that your friends and family will easily mistake as professional!

1. Use Exposure Compensation

First select a background that is not too busy so the flowers will stand out. Select a dark background for white flowers and set the exposure compensation to a negative value. Using a negative value makes the background even darker so you can emphasize the flowers in the picture even more. Even when you cannot choose the background, if there is light shining on the flowers, use the shadowed areas as a background and adjust the exposure compensation towards the [ - ].

As a rule of thumb, compensate towards [+] to take pictures of flowers in lighter tones like white or yellow; compensate towards [-] for blue, violet or more darkly-colored flowers.

No exposure compensation
No exposure compensation
Exposure compensation at -1.0
Exposure compensation at -1.0
2. Use the Macro Modes
A shot taken in Super Macro mode.
Super Macro Mode

There are some cases where you can get a better picture by not shooting a whole group of flowers , but by taking a closer shot of individual flowers themselves. Using the macro mode will allow you to do this. Need to get even closer? Try using the super macro mode. In super macro mode the picture is taken at a full wide angle and you cannot use the zoom. This allows you to shoot not only the magnified flower but also a wide background. With this mode you can also compose a more scenic picture by positioning the enlarged flower at the front with even more flowers in the background. Take note that when using macro photography you must be careful since blurring of the image is more likely to occur.

3. Adjust the AF Mode

When taking pictures of flower fields in full bloom, sometimes you cannot get the camera to focus exactly on the point you want. Most Olympus cameras have several auto focus (AF) modes. You will find it easier to focus exactly where you want by learning to use these different modes for different purposes. Try changing the AF MODE during macro photography or when trying to bring out a specific subject or flower.

The camera has two AF modes:

This mode lets the camera automatically decide on where to focus, but it tends to give preference to close, bright and clearly contrasted subjects when selecting the focus point.

A photo taken in SPOT AF mode.

This mode lets the camera focus only on the subject in the center of the screen.

A photo taken in SPOT AF mode.

When you set AF Mode to SPOT the AF target mark is fixed at the center of the screen. Place the AF target mark over the subject you want to focus on and press the shutter button halfway to focus.

4. Mind the distance from the background

Getting closer to the subject:

A photo taken close to the subject in super macro mode.

Getting close to the subject using Macro mode: The background is still clearly distinguishable.

A photo taken very close to the subject in super macro mode.

Getting even closer with Super Macro mode: The background is blurred and seems relatively farther.

To create a photo where a flower is in perfect focus against a blurred background, use the zoom to get closer to the subject and farther from the background. When you zoom in to enlarge the subject, it is more likely that the background will be blurred. It is also important to move closer to the subject, while at the same time keeping some distance between subject and background. Using these three techniques, you can create great pictures with the background beautifully out of focus.

These techniques work because every lens has a specific characteristic called depth of field. That is the area in front of and behind the subject that, when the subject is in focus, will also appear in focus. When the zoom is used to enlarge the subject, the depth of field becomes shallower, making it more likely that the background will be blurred. Try to increase the distance between the subject and background as much as possible to achieve this effect. You can also try combining these techniques with your camera’s macro mode.

Zooming in:

Wide angle: the background will be partially in focus and distinguishable enough. Telephoto: the background which can be seen through the leaves is blurred and indistinct.

Increasing the distance between subject and background:

Super Macro: The ground is very close and can be seen clearly. Super Macro: The background is far so it is easily blurred.
5. Use the Histogram

When you use a compact digital camera, you usually look at the lcd screen when taking a picture. However, it may be difficult to see the screen when outdoors on a sunny day because of the surrounding light. A histogram can be an effective way to determine the exposure in these situations. A histogram displays the distribution of light in the subject that is framed, and is a convenient tool for determining the exposure in bright, outdoor locations. You may need some time to get used to using a histogram, but once you do, it can be very convenient.

Shot at correct exposure: The histogram graph is not touching the left or right border, and no part of the picture is black-crushed (underexposed) or white-clipped (overexposed).
Shot using +1.0 exposure compensation: The histogram graph is touching the right border. In the picture, the white flower is white-clipped (overexposed), resulting in burnt-out highlight details.
Shot using -1.0 exposure compensation: The histogram graph is touching the left border. In the picture, areas other than the white flower are black-crushed (underexposed), resulting in loss of details.
Adjusting your White Balance Presets

The white balance presets let you tell the camera precisely what type of light source you are shooting under. There are four common presets you will see, while some cameras may offer more settings for a closer match.

AUTO The white balance is adjusted automatically so that colors look natural irrespective of the light source.
Clear/Sunny For natural colors under a clear sky.
Cloudy/Overcast For natural colors under a cloudy sky.
Incandescent/Tungsten For natural colors under tungsten lighting.
Fluorescent For natural colors under fluorescent lighting.

Outdoors, use the Clear/Sunny setting for bright sunny days and the Cloudy/Overcast setting for overcast days.