Photographing Orchids


The "Old Bloke" was a RAAF photographer. After the war he was a press photog with the Townsville Daily Bulletin, in the days of Editor Jim Gibbard. He then set up Studios in Conns Chambers, sold out to Arch Fraley, and never touched a camera again.

So, with hypo in the veins so to speak, industrial photographics took my interest, with the chance to also use a camera to capture some of the fascination of orchids.

Off to see Billy Gray, one time unofficial Townsville Orchid Society photographer, with the new single lens reflex, six weeks pay in those days. Take your photographs in light shade, suggested Bill. He was about right, but diffused sunlight was even better with the advent of sarlon shade cloth. Sarlon high overhead diffuses the sunlight, taking away the hard contrast and hard shadows.

A tripod is a must!

Once set up, it is often easier to move the flower around to suit the angle required. It is important to remember that the depth of field is governed by the aperture. The higher the aperture number (f11, f16, f22), the greater the depth of field.

To use the high aperture, the time is often required to be slower, so it is worthwhile to consider 400ASA film. This allows a high aperture number, with a reasonably fast shutter speed (time), and gains important depth of field.

A background is also important!

Bulbophyllum masdevalleacum Each flower almost requires a different background, due to colours and sizes. An effective background can be an 18% grey reflectance card, a mat black sheet, or a patch of blue sky.

Backgrounds can be created with the camera, by using an aperture to gain the appropriate depth of field, but with the background out of focus and blurred. A dark area of the bushhouse can be used as a background for light coloured flowers, and a well lit or sunny area for dark coloured flowers.

Add some natural light!

Flowers can be modelled by the use of an alfoil covered cardboard reflector. The sunlight is reflected onto the shadow side of the subject, a fill in of light to reduce hard shadows and increase the three dimensional appearance of the flower.

Townsville Orchid Society (TOS) had a slide collection at one time and the old time photogs used all these tricks. I remember Stan Brock's signature was a little green frog somewhere in the picture. With a little care and attention, you too can preserve your treasured orchids with a camera, be it as prints or slides, to show off long after the flowers have gone.

Just remember,

F.A.S.W.A.C. Focus, Aim, Shoot, Wind And Cock.

Text by Ian Walters.
May be reproduced provided source acknowledged.