Flowers and a Flashlight

I once read that you can get beautiful photos of flowers with just a flashlight. So with a high powered, focusing flashlight, a self-standing monopod and a Christmas cactus, I got the following shots.

Here is the setup:

20160127 220005 DSCF1801 XT1_DCE.jpg

Here is what it looked like without the flashlight:

20160127 215154 IMG_9882 G15 f2.8_DCE.jpg

Here it is with the flashlight:

20160127 215620 IMG_9907 G15 f4.0_DCE.jpg

I will tell you that holding a heavy flashlight at head level really hurts after a while. Holding it steady to avoid casting light where you don’t want it is even harder.

20160127 212025 DSCF1740 XT1 Nikon 50mm f1.8 at f5.6_DCE.jpg

You will notice the strong color shift in the photos. This is due to the very blue color of the high intensity flashlight and because of this, attempting to correct the white balance (in the RAW files) resulted in less color detail. (More on this later.)

Depth of Field

To test the importance of depth of field on this technique, I took the following shots with a Fuji X-T1 and an old Nikon 50mm f/1.8.

20160127 212154 DSCF1745 XT1 Nikon 50mm f1.8 at f11_Crop_DCE.jpg

It turns out low depth of field* is less important than managing the light to get the best results. (The above shot was at f/11.) 

*In fact, for aperture it was more important to get the most depth of field. f/8-11 seemed to give the best results from my distance to the subject (about 0.4ft, the minimum range of that lens). f/5.6 was fine, too, but the extra depth of field of f/8 was appreciated. Anything above f/11 seem to start to soften (the increase effect of diffraction).

Color balance

I attempted to adjust the color balance of the Canon G15 raw files to better match the actual color.

Canon’s Digital Photography Professional maxed out at 10,000K, but still looked purple. DxO Optics Pro at 10,000K looked closer in color, but resulted in less detail even with microcontrast and lens softness details maxed out. DxO could also go up to 20,000K, but the color turned everything pink and ugly, and in all cases, the (green) plant no longer looked correct.

Fuji’s shots were less blue, but still not pink like the actual flower.

Fuji’s in-camera processing could also go to 10,000K and the color was also better than Canon DPP, but the details were still not as good and the (green) plant didn’t look correct. I still prefer the auto WB results even if it didn’t look like the flower in other light.

This goes to show you how important it is to have good quality light to begin with.


Except for the Canon G15, the rest of the photos are all cropped a little due to reaching the minimum focus distance.

I should have also shot this with a native Fuji lens, too, but I was just trying out this technique for the first time.

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