By Christine Pentecost—
Living in Montana, where the winters are long, I decided to give myself a photographic challenge, so I could enjoy my flowers year round. I wanted to photograph fresh bouquets of flowers, but in a way that I could have unique backgrounds, which could easily be changed. I also wanted a new way to present them at the many shows I exhibit at.
Here’s an overview of three techniques to make your flower images really stand out: Texture, Deckling, and Floating. You can find links to detailed step-by-step tutorials in the Resources section at the end of the article .
First, let’s discuss textured backgrounds. I have always admired images with these backgrounds, and fortunately, with Photoshop and blend modes, it’s easily done. And, while I work in Photoshop CC, blend modes are also available on Photoshop Elements and other imaging programs.
I started this project last spring, when tulips and daffodils were first available in the stores. I progressed to visiting our local Farmer’s Market every week during the summer months, where there were some wonderful flower vendors. Of course you can also get flowers in the winter from florists or even grow your own, so you can use this technique year-round.
The more I got involved in the project, the more ideas I came up with for my flower displays, vases and containers. I started out with simple glass vases, but found more unique ones online, at my local craft store, and antique stores. After all, it doesn’t have to be an actual vase!
The process is relatively simple. I arrange the bouquet in my flower vase, setting the vase on either a brown base or rough wood board, and then place a large white piece of mat board or foam core behind the flowers. Sometimes, as shown above, I’ll use several vases. I use natural lighting, and photograph my flowers both inside and outdoors.
I make a point of not being in direct sunlight, to prevent harsh shadows. However, even when using natural light, there can be shadows on the white background, so I keep several inches (or more) between the bouquet and background, to eliminate them. I also position my camera at the same level as the bouquet, using a tripod. Sometimes I place a few flower petals or flowers around the base of the vase, and I like to rearrange the flowers as I take the photos, so I have many different perspectives to choose from.
Now the fun begins. After taking the photos into Photoshop, I crop the image, to the perspective I want, whether it be rectangular, or square.
My technique involves using textures, which can be found in abundance online, many of them free (see Resources, below). Or you can photograph or scan your own textures, if you’d like. Then, use the blend mode features in Photoshop, which is very easy. First, pick a texture that you like, open it in Photoshop, and drag the layer onto your flower image, using the move tool. You may need to do free transform (Control “T” on Windows, Command “T” on a Mac) to make the texture fit your image.
Next, click on the Blend Mode drop down box. In Photoshop, you will see a long list of all of the blend modes available. As you move your mouse down the list of blend modes in most imaging applications, the blended appearance of your image will change. Another quick and easy way is to click on the Move tool (or “V” as a shortcut), and then click on the Plus (+) or Minus (-) keys to scroll through the many blend modes. I don’t like every texture I try, so there is a lot of trial and error with different textures, colors and blend modes.
Sometimes, the texture looks great on the background, but not on the flowers. Other times, I like adding texture to the flowers, but not the background. To do this, I create a layer mask on the textured layer, allowing me to remove the texture where I don’t want it. You may also want to adjust the opacity of the blend mode (lightening or darkening it) to achieve the look you want.
There are no set rules about how many layers you can have. I’ve created my perfect image in just a few layers, and I have other images where I used 13 layers! Usually the last step in my textured image is to add an edge overlay, which creates a darker border around the image.
When I finally have my image as I like it, I print it onto a textured paper. My favorite the nice, heavyweight, Red River Palo Duro Etching 315, which gives the final printed image even more texture. I’ve also used River Linen 2.0, which has a nice texture, and is a good choice if your printer is unable to print heavyweight papers. (see Resources, below.)
Now for the next step. After the photo is printed, I make a deckled edging, using the Dual Edge Ripper Classic. This is available from Red River and you should watch the video on their site before doing your first deckled edge. (see Resources, below). After watching them, I found it very easy to create this unique edge which gives my flower images a classic look.
Finally, when framing my flower photos, I like to create the look of a floated image. I first cut the matte board to the size of the backboard of the frame. Then, I cut a piece of acid-free foam core about 1/4 to ½ inch smaller than my image, after which I either tape or glue (with adhesive spray) the image to the matte board. Bear in mind that the frame will need to have a deeper depth, or “rabbit”, to allow for the floated print. (see Resources below)
Once you get into using textured backgrounds, it can be addictive. I found using them really enhances the appearance of my flower images and elevates them to a new high, especially when their edges are deckled and they float in their frames. Check out the tutorials below and then get cracking. It’ll make those winter days fly by.
Visit Christine’s website to see more of her textured flower images.
Textures that go well with flowers:
Best Red River Papers for textured flower photography
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Last updated: February 18, 2020