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How To Take Flower Pics Without A Tripod

Posted by: Robert Frank Gabriel on 05/19/2013 - 3:35 PM

Yes, I know. Using a tripod is the correct way of creating good flower photography. BUT...I don't have the patience (dare I say I am far to "impatiens" to use a tripod. So, how do I compensate for my lack of common sense in this regard?

Unless I want a "blurred" impressionist look to my flower images, I NEVER shoot flowers when it is at all windy...I also will use a higher ISO like 400 and NOT 100. This will give me a faster shutter speed and a higher aperture like 6.3 (as opposed to 2.5 or so)...I can always add color, blur the background in a photo editing program.

And I do NOT use a bulky zoom lens but rather a small and sturdy lens (which for me is a Canon 50mm macro mounted on my Canon Rebel T3i).

I also take LOTS of images of the same flower because at my age (70) I am not that steady of hand. If I take lots of images of just one flower, I am usually assured of having a few flower images that are not ruined by unintentional blur.

Most of my flower images on FAA (like 99 percent) are taken without the aid of a tripod.

Do I have a tripod? Yep, an excellent sturdy tripod capable of keeping steady most bulky zoom lenses.

Do I have any fellow non tripod flower photographers here? If so, any additional advice for me would be greatly appreciated.


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Posted by: Roy Erickson on 05/19/2013 - 3:55 PM

point the lens at the flower, make sure the camera is turned on, push the button - there - now you've taken the picture of a flower. sometimes I use a tripod - sometimes I don't - depends on the situation - IF "I" can set up - I do - if I can't - I don't. this morning I took 36 photo's of flowers - mostly my neighbors yard, but a couple in mine - out of those 36 - all using a tripod - I'm almost pleased with three of them. The pictures of the ginger plant were all bad - I retook some of them - it's just across the street - they are still NOT what I want. My cactus, geranium and the begonia did fairly well 9 although the begonia, I think, is only suitable for a card.


Posted by: Robert Frank Gabriel on 05/19/2013 - 4:04 PM

Yes, I do point the lens at the flower (and see how the lens shakes in my hand), I do turn the camera on and when I push the button, the camera will shake a bit (which is why I have a Canon T3i that has IS)...

Nothing sucks more than to have great composition but blurred images. This happened to me just the other day when I shot Lily of the Valley (on a somewhat windy day)...Today on a calm day, I reshot the same Lily of the Valley with much better results.

I found a great patch of Lily of the Valley in one of our forest preserves (same patch every year). While on my hands and knees (in the mud) I took some 24 pics of this batch. I think 3 of the images have promise and I will work on them in the next few days.


Posted by: Nature's Details on 05/19/2013 - 4:28 PM

@ Robert,

I do not use a tripod, when shooting floral. If I am outside on an overcast day, I never have to go above ISO 200, in order to get a fast enough shutter speed. Lately I am using my Pentax 55/1.8 (manual focus) lens and I aim for a shutter speed of at least 1/200th. I typically will not shoot wide open (F1.8) unless I am looking to create some rather crazy looking bokeh. I find that the Pentax lens is very sharp at 2.8, so I start there and adjust accordingly to get the right shutter speed. On a cloudy day, at F2.8, ISO 100, I can easily achieve speeds of 1/200th or faster. A little breeze or slight shake, does not matter as much, at speeds like that. I also try to get as low as possible, even on my stomach with elbows braced, in order to get the best possible shot.

If I want to use a smaller aperture (F4 or 5.6) I will make sure the background is far enough away from my subject, that I still get a really nice blur in my image. When shooting flowers, I am typically within the shortest focusing range of the lens.


Posted by: Lynn Palmer on 05/19/2013 - 4:36 PM

I'm struggling with the same issues but have started taking 2-3 images of the same subject in the hopes one will be ok. It seems to be working most of the time. I then delete the unsuccessful images.


Posted by: Christina Rollo on 05/19/2013 - 4:44 PM

I never use a tripod for flowers. I like to use my point and shoot camera on macro or super macro setting. I can get really close and fill the frame, but with the point and shoot camera it's got to be a bright day because I can't go too high with the ISO.

I also like to use my Nikon 55-300mm lens because I can isolate my subject with dof and I can shoot high ISO with my DSLR. I always try to brace my camera arm with another arm or leg and I use a monopod with my Sigma lens because it's heavy.


Posted by: Paul Cowan on 05/19/2013 - 4:51 PM

Very often the trembling of the flower in a light breeze makes a tripod irrelevant, If you have to shoot at 1/400s to freeze motion blur, then you are not likely to get great depth of field, anyway, unless you use flash. But on a still day, a tripod can be good. I think this one was at about 1/8s and f/32, with a tripod of course (and a large format camera)..

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Posted by: Paul Cowan on 05/19/2013 - 5:02 PM

Of course, some people use clamps to hold the flowers still.


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 05/19/2013 - 5:04 PM

This was taken with a tripod, I used one of my long walking/hiking sticks to hold back other foliage.

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Posted by: Christina Rollo on 05/19/2013 - 5:07 PM

"If you have to shoot at 1/400s to freeze motion blur, then you are not likely to get great depth of field, anyway" This doesn't make sense to me at all? Anything's possible when you set your mind to it. I even shoot flowers on breezy days. This was shot at ISO 800, f/8, 1/2000 at a focal length of 300. Nice dof with the center as the focal point and it's sharp.

Wild Geranium


Posted by: Crystal Wightman on 05/19/2013 - 6:10 PM

What's a tripod? lol
Seriously, 99.9999999% of my flowers are not shot using a tripod. Tripod just gets in the way for the angle I want. Heck, I get in the way for the angles I want. lol


Posted by: Paul Cowan on 05/19/2013 - 6:59 PM

Yes, long lenses and high ISO helps, Christine. I tend to stay down around ISO 100 and use short lenses.


Posted by: Steven Ralser on 05/19/2013 - 7:03 PM

I use a tripod as much as I can, except when I don't have it. These I took recently with a tripod
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Posted by: Janice Drew on 05/19/2013 - 8:42 PM

Robert...not any tips for you, but I also shoot many photos per flower. I do that with all my photos, not just flowers. Here are some of my flowers. All handheld.

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Posted by: Robert Frank Gabriel on 05/19/2013 - 9:04 PM

Thanks all for the "support." lol....or should I say "lack of tripod"

If I were to use a tripod for the angles I want, It would take me hours of fiddling with the tripod.

Janice, yep I've learned, like you, to shoot many pics per flower.


Posted by: Janice Drew on 05/19/2013 - 9:13 PM

Robert, I took this one earlier this morning. I would have posted it earlier, but I was still working on it. I decided to make this square shaped.

The residents were actually sitting outdoors on their deck enjoying their ocean view. I did ask if they minded. They obviously didn't. It was on public property along the old railroad tracks that abut their property. They have extended their perennial garden on to the tracks. A walking trail/bike path runs aside the tracks.
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Posted by: Camille Lopez on 05/19/2013 - 11:22 PM

I never use a tripod to take floral shots
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Posted by: Margaret Saheed on 05/20/2013 - 4:22 AM

I don't own a tripod, and my flowers are taken with a 'bridging' camera, generally on full zoom at several feet away.

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Posted by: Jai Johnson on 05/20/2013 - 6:53 AM

I never, ever use a tripod. And I own several of them. I shoot everything hand held, including my recent photos of eagles using a big and heavy Sigma lens. I photograph a ton of birds and animals and found when trying a tripod in the past, I missed the shots I wanted because the bird moved to another location and I couldn't maneuver the tripod well enough. Here's a couple of examples, the first being my most favorite handheld flower shot ever, taken while I was on a bicycle, nonetheless. And the second is one of my recent eagle in flight shots with the big lens.

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Posted by: Jenny Rainbow on 05/20/2013 - 7:09 AM

I never use tripod for the flowers (but always want to!), as usually no right space to stand tripod and difficult to get right angle... Just going with high ISO and shallow DOF. Also trying to get steady pose, but not always possible... Many attempts actually sometimes and some trash of course...

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Posted by: Juergen Roth on 05/20/2013 - 3:53 PM

Tripod should really be your first choice. Alternatively you can use other steady surface like e tree, fence or anything else to stabilize the camera during exposure. Crank up the ISO to obtain faster shutter speeds, turn on the image stabilizer, try burst mode to take multiple pictures in a row ... cross your fingers one will be all right. You can also make test shots at different shutter speed and lens settings to determine which ones are acceptable when hand held.

Happy Monday and Good Luck,



Posted by: Bradford Martin on 05/20/2013 - 5:26 PM

A never to be famous photographer once said:
"I only use a tripod when I want sharp pictures. The one I have has a boom and it can go at any height and angle and low to the ground but it's too hard to use, so I leave it home. And I shoot at the highest ISO that will give me lots of noise.That way I can run the photo through noise filters and soften it so I can sharpen it again. I wait until the mid-afternoon when the wind has picked up a bit to start my photography. That also helps to make sure the petals are wilted. I always head home before the light gets soft and the wind dies down. I never bring reflectors, remote flashes or anything to soften the light or block the wind. And I never carry clamps or string to help steady the subject. I am a fine art photographer so I don't have to worry about all the technical stuff, because my friends say I can really frame a nice photo. And being too picky about details slows me down so I only come home with a few hundred pictures to look through. Nothing ever sells though."


Posted by: Robert Frank Gabriel on 05/20/2013 - 5:41 PM

I do all of what you say....

Brad...Funny...I guess...but lots of truth in what you tell us.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 05/20/2013 - 5:55 PM

i find using a tripod for anything just slows me down. i shoot everything free hand. while i'm still working on flowers and getting them to sell. a open aperture, shouldn't need a tripod. the speed will increase. plus even on windless days, flowers move a bit. most gardens don't allow tripods, and i found they were a pain to set up and carry.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Marcio Faustino on 05/20/2013 - 6:06 PM

Use flash.

With flash you can shot on the maximum shutter speed of your camera (or lens depend on your equipment), your the flawer can be shaking as if it were in a tornado wind and your image will be sharp (if you have a fast accurate auto-focus).

Mixing the flash lighting with bouncers and others flash will give you more creative lighting effects. And of couse, softer your flash light.

Other option, buy flowers and shoot at home. :)


Posted by: Bradford Martin on 05/20/2013 - 6:10 PM

There is a real technique for flowers that I call the elbows on the knees technique. I know of a book on wildflowers that was published with all the photos taken with this technique. Bend over the subject and put your elbows on your knees or thighs. Shoot straight down. This one was a grab shot from a museum garden. No tripods allowed.

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This is an iphone shot. I took it on my own front porch. I brought a chair over so I could sit and be more steady. I had dragged out the camera and tripod on it, but the light was not as nice then. I regret not bring out the tripod and good camera again. I have an extensive portfolio of flowers taken with slide film, but not much on FAA.
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Posted by: Marcio Faustino on 05/20/2013 - 6:21 PM

I don't remember where I learned this technique but whenever I have to go down to shot without tripod I always do it. It is indeed very handy.


Posted by: Juergen Roth on 05/20/2013 - 6:23 PM

Nicely summed up in a funny way ~ got a chuckle out of that Brad. Marcio brought up another good point: auto-focus versus manual focus. I actually prefer manual focus to pinpoint my focus point via the magnification feature and then move the metering circle of the camera around to explore the best lighting options and results ... tough to do without a tripod.




Posted by: Roy Erickson on 05/20/2013 - 10:30 PM

I took this one last year - without a tripod

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Posted by: Jane McIlroy on 05/21/2013 - 5:26 AM

It's the result that counts. If you can end up with a crisp, noise-free photo, it doesn't matter whether you've used a tripod, been lucky with the weather, or made a lot of corrections and adjustments in post processing. I sometimes wonder though - how many people who say they never use a tripod and happily boost the ISO to compensate for movement, have actually inspected their photos pixel by pixel at 100% magnification to look for problems, or do they just look at the colours and general composition in full-screen view?


Posted by: Donna Proctor on 05/21/2013 - 10:49 AM

No tripod...

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Posted by: Robert Frank Gabriel on 05/21/2013 - 3:24 PM

Macio says "Other option, buy flowers and shoot at home. :)"
Yes, exactly. I agree on that one. Good point...

Bradford tells us "here is a real technique for flowers that I call the elbows on the knees technique"
Yes, I agree and have done this with some success (do even my knees shake?).

Mr. Savad tells us that a tripod slows him down....
Boy, does it ever with me. I just can't do it.

Mr. Roth suggests manual focus and not auto on some flower shots...
Yes, I agree and do this much of the time.

Jane tells us "it's the results that count."
Amen. Amen. Amen....


Posted by: Viktor Savchenko on 05/21/2013 - 3:35 PM

I think the best close to this tread can be : Don't bother about technique and equipments,buyers will buy everything. Amen,amen,amen...


Posted by: Mike Savad on 05/21/2013 - 3:43 PM

tripods are good for:

1. long exposure
2. night shots
3. really hard to hold the camera shots - like your peering off a cliff or standing in water (i don't go that far for photography).

everything else is just a tripping hazard and more weight to carry.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Christina Rollo on 05/21/2013 - 3:46 PM

@ Mike, very well said!!!


Posted by: Loree Johnson on 05/21/2013 - 3:51 PM

I use a tripod somewhere around 80-90% of the time, regardless of what I am shooting. Sometimes, I can get sharp shots handheld, but with a tripod, the odds are much, much better. I have also found that the more resolution (megapixels) the camera has, the tougher it is to get sharp images without a tripod. Now that I shoot with the D800E (36mpx), I use the tripod more than ever. But, then again, I'm usually not in a big hurry.


Posted by: Paul Cowan on 05/21/2013 - 4:02 PM

Mike, add carefully lit studio compositions to your list of times you need a tripod. If you are moving the camera around, your shadows and highlights - as well as the exact composition - will shift about. You also need one if you are photographing a painting, so that you get the correct alignment and don't have to fix perspective problems. Similarly, if you are taking perspective controlled architecture shots you want to have the camera level, not waving about. I can think of a few other cases, too, though for general day-to-day photography, it's usually not needed. In fact, you can lose more good photos than you gain if you are tethered to a tripod all the time. You lose the ability to respond rapidly to an unexpected event.


Posted by: Bradford Martin on 05/21/2013 - 4:44 PM

One more reason to use a tripod is exact point of focus, When shooting small things the depth of field is only a few mm. What part of the flower do you want the focus to be on? If the depth of field is only a few mm, how are you going to get the focus nailed. If on a tripod you can stop down a bit for more depth of field, without sacrificing sharpness.
The right way to shoot a flower is to move around it and explore the angles without a tripod. When you find the angle you want, then you set up a tripod or other camera support to get the camera in that position. Once you have the angle and lock it down you work on finding the ideal focus and other parameters. Flower photography is best done slowly. Flowers don't run off or fly off like birds and other wildlife You are not likely to miss the shot by taking some extra time to use a tripod. Paul, I have a quick release. I am untethered in a second, like, if a Big Foot suddenly runs past while I am shooting a flower am all over it.


Posted by: Tony Reddington on 05/21/2013 - 8:10 PM

I think I'll get a monopod.


Posted by: Mike Savad on 05/21/2013 - 8:33 PM

if i were to get any other pods, it would be a Bi-pod, it's easier to keep it stable, but i think it's one of those things you can only get for a gun.

though a more interesting mount, and a great way to get arrested, is the shot gun mount. where you have the stock of a gun and then you really point and shoot.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: David Lester on 05/21/2013 - 9:36 PM

I do handheld and use a tripod depending on what I am trying to do. This shot was handheld and taken two days ago early evening. This close up view was cropped from the original. You are only looking at about 10% of the image. The shot specs were, Canon 5D MKII, 70-200L IS II @ 160mm, 1/500sec, f/7.1, iso200, AP, partial metering, handheld and the sun was low shining on the flower. So yes, you can get great handheld shots!!
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Posted by: Rose Santuci-Sofranko on 05/21/2013 - 10:18 PM

I never use a tripod...don't own one...and haven't really needed one.

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Posted by: Sinh Phun on 05/21/2013 - 11:28 PM

All of my dew drop shots are handheld. It's impossible to use a tripod at the ground level. I guess you can say the ground is my tripod.
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Posted by: Brian Wallace on 05/22/2013 - 12:47 AM

Sinh, what about those little short cheap tripods? They can be at grown level. Anyway, I usually use a zoom lens for macros which means, the camera has to be as steady as you can make it and at least 6 feet away from the subject to focus. I use a wireless remote and a slow shutter speed so that I can use a low ISO and have less noise. Sure, a tripod is a hassle, and that's why most people don't use it but not many of the people above seem to want to admit it actually enables better quality. We're just lazy and we're kidding ourselves if we think our results are as good without it. Hey, I'm as guilty as the next photographer.

Handheld I believe...

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On this one I wanted the entire FOV in focus so I shot with a high F-Stop, low ISO (100), long shutter release, (wireless remote), and of course I had to use a tripod for those conditions. The image was originally 1/2 of a 3D stereo pair which views better if the entire image is in focus and not just the subject.

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Posted by: Sinh Phun on 05/22/2013 - 1:21 AM

Hi Brian,
Even the ground pods are too high. All the pods I see are slightly above ground level. Then you add the ball head, then the macro rail, it raises the camera too high. Anyway, dew season is over in San Jose California. Sorry everyone, off topic.


Posted by: Tony Reddington on 05/22/2013 - 4:42 AM

I have seen those Mike and always thought they would be waaay to dangerous to carry around


Posted by: Mike Savad on 05/22/2013 - 7:18 AM

i can just imagine visiting a park with that thing, the shots you can get in then. all those people running away, all those cops tackling you. i can see a whole series.

then of course you can go one step further and get a putty pod, an orange goo that looks a lot like plastic explosive with a tripod mount attached. though you can make the same thing using a ball of silly putty. they say it sticks and conforms to the camera, so you rest it on railing and such. but i haven't figured out how to store it on a trip, or use it without the worry that it will stick to everything.

---Mike Savad


Posted by: Phyllis Wolf on 05/22/2013 - 10:45 AM

I have several tripods of varying sizes as well as one with a monopod built in but I don't use any of them that often, except when photographing paintings and other artwork...then a tripod is a must, but otherwise I usually take most shots freehand. The IS works pretty well and a tripod is too cumbersome and too much additional weight to carry everywhere.

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This discussion is closed.