Pictures of tulips can be so dramatic
that only the sweet scent is missing. The colours in a tulip garden are so overwhelming, especially to photographers... where do you start? Spring, and the dramatic colour festival, is so fleeting, you have to grab it by the petals while you can.
“A tulip doesn’t strive to impress anyone. It
doesn’t struggle to be
different than a rose. It doesn’t have to. It is different.
And there’s room in the garden for every flower."
~ Marianne Williamson
Get pictures of tulips as a total garden scene... a landscape. But "landscape" doesn't mean that the image has to be a horizontal image, like in the scene above. Make sure you get vertical shots of the same scene.
Take in the entire view and see how the garden's been planned out. If you're like me,
once you get into your macro lens, you'll be tempted to spend all your
time peering though it...but drag yourself away for the bigger picture!
Use a wide angle lens, maybe 35 mm or a 50 mm, and get lots of landscape views.
Flower lovers flock to Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. In the spring, it's a popular place. Spring bulbs bust out of the ground in February while Old Man Winter still has the rest of Canada screaming for mercy.
Here's a landscape shot behind the conservatory.
Shoot landscapes and not always just one or two flowers. Wait
until later in the day when the sun isn't as strong, or when it's striking the
plants from the side.
This photo was taken in the evening and the light is rich and warm. In the golden light of evening, my pictures of tulips are brilliant.
This is a photo with everything in focus. You won't see that in all the photos on this page. Sometimes you want one, or a few, flowers very sharp and everything else blurred to highlight the subject.
For a refresher on exposure, start with these pages:
Your photos reflect who you are. Be what you want to be. Even if you're a realist, you may have fun with playing with a photo-editor. Some of my photos don't lend themselves to a painterly style. I only tweak them in Camera Raw.
Many of my photographs are impressionistic. 'Painting' my photos lets me play and add my imagination to my photos. It makes my pictures unique and I enjoy spending time in the process.
The software I use is Lightroom, Photoshop, and Topaz Impression.
Don't be afraid to use an editing program. You computer comes with one and if you grow beyond what it can give you, there are more advanced programmes to choose from. Go through the lessons that come with your photo-editor or search YouTube. The point is to enjoy the process while you learn.
Most of my images have textures and layers added in my editing process.
Photographers differ on their opinions about impressionistic photo editing. My only advice is to express yourself however you want to!
If you work for a newspaper or submit to stock, then you don't have a choice.... you can't over edit your photos. They must be real rather than an artistic expression.
Otherwise, put your imagination in gear and enjoy the editing process.
You can apply vignettes right onto the original picture but that's NOT a good idea. Applying any treatment to the photo layer isn't a smart way to go. It destroys the original picture (pixels) and when you close the file and save it, that's final. If you decide you don't like it the next day (and who doesn't?) you're stuck with it!
So get comfortable with layers... totally non-destructive. You can change your mind 1,000 times and your original file is happily unaffected. I could never have created this dreamy tulip image if I hadn't used layers.
At Daegu University in South Korea, one of my favourite photo gardens was between the Engineering buildings and the main administrative building. There's a small apple tree in the centre. The plaque says it was a graft from Newton's famed apple tree... remember the apple that landed on his head?
I didn't get even one picture of that tree but... my collection of photos has hundreds of pictures of tulips, peonies and all sorts of spring and summer blooms. I'm thankful for all the hours these tulips were my models... all colours and shapes! I'm sorry that they dug out all the bulbs and planted bushes in their place.
If you go to my photo composition page, Fibonacci and the Golden ratio you'll see this photo at the bottom of the page.
In colour theory, red and yellow are primary, hot colours. So, these tulips have maximum sparkle!
One of my favourite pictures of tulips from photography school days. These red and yellow Darwinian tulips were dazzling. I remember it had just rained and the whole garden was glowing. I decided to try a few abstract shots and this one was a keeper.
And this pink and white variegated tulip is another of my pictures of tulips from photography school days. The light falling on it is spectacular. The foliage and other flowers blur into a soft, dark background.
Since this tulip is in a garden and not a vase, the blue and green shades flow, rather than making a solid black. I totally love the colours... almost like blue-green flames.
Filtering for shadows in Camera Raw or Lightroom would bring out the background and give much lighter, blues and greens.
But the dark canvas highlights this sensational tulip and I love it!
This is 35 mm. slide film, scanned on a Nikon Coolscan. I still really enjoy shooting with my Nikon film camera.
I don't often use solid black backdrops but this photo turned out great. Shooting out in the garden is more my style. I don't have studio lights but that's not really a big problem with huge windows. Be careful with backdrops that they aren't shiny... you'll end up with horrible reflective spots in your photos. Make sure it's a flat matte and you're not shooting in strong, direct sunlight.
This is the tiniest tulip I've ever seen. The vase is only 3 inches tall.
I used a circular polarizer to bring out the intense red in the petals. And a black backdrop makes the tulip jump right out at you.
I set this up on my glassed-in balcony and waited for the clouds to cover the sun. It's still a very contrasty image but that's the way it was meant to be.
Doing indoor shots? You'll need a tripod.
If you need help with setting up a simple home studio, here are some suggestions.
Of course, the best place to be in the spring for exquisite pictures of tulips, is the Netherlands. I've been several times and not once has it been the height of tulip season. That trip is on my bucket list.
Since I'm back in the BC, Canada area now, the Skagit Tulip Festival is not far across the US border. That is going to be an amazing day trip!
You don't need acres of bulbs to get great pictures of tulips, though. They're popular garden bulbs and you can always buy a few at the flower shop and take some close up or macro photos. Always get a mixture of shots for your flower picture collections... horizontal and vertical as well as close up, macro and landscape.