Photographing An Iris For Your Designs

When photographing a flower to create a motif for your designs or illustrations, you may need to cheat a bit.

Iris flower before and after

Manipulating An Iris For Photography

This lovely Iris is from my garden. It was a beautiful flower, but the composition wasn’t quite working for creating a motif for my designs. The top flowers were too bunched together and I wanted the bottom flower to have more separation from the stem. I needed to cheat a bit in both pre photography and post processing to get the look I wanted.

My Pre Photography Edits

  • Not Shown: I’ve already snipped off dead flowers and checked for bugs.
  • Top Flowers: I used a straight pin to separate the flowers from each other. (See below.)
  • Bottom right flower: I had to slightly break the flower at the base to make it separate. Fortunately, the break is hidden by the spathe. (Yeah, I just looked that up. It’s the covering.)

Iris flowers separated with pin.

Set Up

Snapshot of set-up

My studio has a lot of natural light with a skylight and 2 windows, but I do use some flash fill. I just propped up a foam core board as a background. The iris is set into one of those foam block thingies that florists use. A piece of paper with a hole cut in it covers the foam block so the stem is easier to cut out in Photoshop. Note: it would be better to use a large sheet of paper to create a seamless effect, but I didn’t have any more large paper. This set up does the job since I’m cutting out the background anyway.

Photo Notes

  • Canon 7D
  • 60mm Canon Macro
  • f/11 , 1/6, ISO 100
  • Tripod, mirror lock exposure.
  • Natural light and bounced flash fill.

Post Photography Edits

The top flowers ended up being a bit too far apart, so I put the top right flower on a separate layer and used the free transform tool to change the angle. It’s a subtle adjustment, but I think it does look more natural. I had a tiny bit of editing to fill in a small gap made by the angle change.

Iris flower edited in Photoshop.

Additional Photoshop Edits

I won’t go into detail in this post, but all of my plant part images that are intended for design use get my standard edits for what I call my Master.

  • Overall contrast: I use a Levels Adjustment Layer to bring the background to as close to pure white without compromising the flower.
  • Basic Edits: I zoom in and retouch out dust, bugs, etc.
  • Background Cut-out: I use basic Photoshop selection tools and the Refine Edge feature to separate plant photographs from the white background. (I only do this for flower photography meant for designs. I don’t do this for textured floral photography.)
  • Topaz Lab’s* Clarity: At least 90% of my images are edited with Topaz Lab’s* Clarity filter. Plants usually get one of the Macro presets tweaked.

What’s Next

After I make my Master, I then explore filters to give a more artistic feeling to the “illustration.” In an upcoming post, I’ll be showing some of those filter effects. I’ll leave you with a little teaser.

Creating designs from the photograph


Topaz Lab’s* Filters is an affiliate link. I get a small commission from any sales resulting from a click from this site (at no extra cost to you.) I really do love these filters. Nearly all of my own images use one of these filters. Thank you for supporting the site!









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7 Responses to Photographing An Iris For Your Designs

  1. Su Hall May 23, 2017 at 6:39 pm #

    Beautiful! Topaz is good. Maybe one day! LOL

  2. Lorelei Bryan May 23, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

    Such helpful tips! Thanks so much, Leslie! I was just looking at an iris this morning and being bummed that the blooms were too close together for a great shot. Going to try your pin trick and also the free transform on a separate layer. Genius you are! Hugs

  3. Betsy May 23, 2017 at 8:14 pm #

    I’m back too! Always love your tutorials!

  4. Vicki Brazil May 23, 2017 at 11:58 pm #

    Thank you for the tutorial! Love your work!

  5. Peter Cotton ( pcbermagui) May 24, 2017 at 2:16 am #

    Thank you for the tutorial, I love doing this sort of work and there are hints there that I hadn’t considered. Iris season isn’t far of here in Oz watch out blooms he’ll be on the prowl again

  6. midolu May 24, 2017 at 7:54 am #

    Compliments et merci, Leslie !

  7. Beverly May 26, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

    Thank you Leslie for this tutorial and I look forward to the next one. I have Topaz Simplify and love using it for edits.

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