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Hints and tips for photographing tulips

Philip Smith
7 May 2010
Blog team: 
Get tips from the experts on photographing tulips. Find out more about making the most of natural light and using the right camera accessories.

Tulips are among my favourite subjects to photograph. I like them in all their stages. We have some of the ‘Havran’ variety in the garden for the first time this year. I have been watching them in bud – the softest of greens with a thin line of dark slowly getting bigger day by day.

They make a marvellous graphic subject. Now they are fully out there is spectacular group of dark purple and yellow blooms nodding away merrily. By contrast, our big red ‘Gudoshnik’ blooms that we planted among tall grasses in the autumn are on the wane now. Their vibrant scarlets have mostly faded to a rosy pink – a pale version of their former selves but offering a much wider range of colours and textures for the photographer to record.

Picture caption: Tulip ‘purissima’ by Philip Smith.105mm lens, f/5 at 1/500 sec.

Tulips are great in all lights because their shape is so graceful, but if you can position yourself so that the sun is shining from behind them and towards the camera then the petals take on a marvellous illuminated glow. Make sure you don’t get lens flare spoiling the colour tones; use a deep lens hood. You may also need an extra bit of black card positioned over the end of the hood.

If the flower is lit from behind you can often find that the front of the flower loses detail because it is too dark. You can use a white reflector – they are a standard accessory for pros - or a piece of white card to bounce natural light back into the flower head and create a more balanced exposure.

There is a wonderful bed of China pink lily-flowered tulips near the Palm House at Kew Gardens at the moment. If you get there when the Garden opens on a sunny morning, you will capture the slanting sun illuminating the blooms.

- Philip Smith -



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