I decided to try putting together a collection of wildflower photos using the bright field lighting technique. The flowers are isolated against a field of all (or nearly all) white background. It’s a bit of a challenge to get the lighting right without blowing out fine details of the flower, stem, and leaf parts. For example, the following full-resolution section of one of the images shows how individual fine hairs on the stems are still visible without being totally overwhelmed by the bright white background.
Each image was shot using a back-lit diffusion screen background (using an umbrella reflector for additional diffusion) and a flash bounced from a reflector umbrella for the specimen’s lighting. A few key details helped achieve the objective of bright-field isolation combined with preserved subject detail:
- The background diffusion screen was positioned far behind the subject to minimize it’s participation in the subject illumination.
- A longer focal length lens was used and the camera positioned to just frame the extent of the diffusion screen and have the subject fill the frame for optimum detail.
- The exposure was tested and adjusted carefully to make sure the background was just at or near blowing out and the subject lighting was appropriate for a normal exposure. Essentially, two independent zones of light were calibrated to achieve their respective goals.
Once the lighting and framing were ready, it was just a matter of going out into our field to collect unsuspecting subjects and shoot the photographs before they started sagging noticeably. In some cases, there is only a couple minutes to get the image made before the flowers start wilting. Sort of like human subjects.