Alison Staite • The Monochromatic Art of Flower Photography

Flowers are some of the most colourful things to photograph, but Alison Staite argues that you can see a different side of them by capturing them in monochrome

The concept of monochrome flowers may seem unusual; after all, we love flowers because they brighten up our lives by being pretty and generally colourful! Like any monochrome conversion, when it is done well, the subject and our inbuilt perception of what it’s supposed to be and look like, almost become irrelevant. When created with intent, we can be left with an image that can be many things – striking, elegant, sophisticated, dainty, dreamy, sombre, moody; the list goes on and on.

I sometimes edit my flower images in several different ways, trying out different feels and moods on the same image. I am definitely not a person who has a completely set idea of what I want to produce from the outset. Things evolve along the way and that’s half the fun; allowing you to be very creative as you go along. To me, the beauty of monochrome editing, especially with suitable flowers, is that it often opens up many style possibilities; possibilities that may simply not work when the colour still exists.

Flowers can definitely be a useful subject to improve your photographic skills. They sometimes get bad press because ‘everybody does them’, and yes, there are millions of lookalikes on Instagram. However, if you start looking at them carefully and compose them with some thought, you can give them your own creative twist. Most of us are not lucky enough to have instant access to stunning landscapes, but flowers are always available. Buy a pot from your garden centre. If you are lucky, they may flower for weeks. The best part is that you can move the pot around. Photograph them indoors or outside, and make the best use of the light and backgrounds that you have. It is a cheap and time efficient way of potentially getting many varied images. Most of my images have been created outdoors, as I don’t actually own any studio equipment.

If you are not familiar with flower photography, there are ...

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    Another piece about monochrome which is nice to see. It’s often the case when interest wanes in a particular area that promoters look for a change to reignite enthusiasm.
    It’s happened before in relation to the use of colour in social photography. After the many years when there was only monochrome the introduction of reliable colour printing gave a commercial boost to the market. Twenty five years on with the market stabilised a change was required and people who had only known colour were introduced to ‘Silvertones’, Black and white by another name.

    Black and white never went away it was only resting. Monochromatic images are often the most successful even in colour.

    Before colour was available flowers were still a favourite subject. With relatively slow materials flowers did not move much allowing a leisurely approach.
    Not being able to show any colour viewpoint, lighting and creative camera work was necessary. When using a chromatic film, colour filters could be used to control tonal values. Digital conversion from colour can now be controlled in a similar way in monochrome pallets.

    There are excellent examples in the work of Robert Mapplethorpe.

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