How to Photograph Leaves

One of the most versatile subjects you can find is a leaf. There are thousands of different kinds of leaves. If the saying is 'no two snowflakes are alike' then I would also argue that no two leaves are alike. Not only do they differ in family but also in shape, color, texture, pattern and size. Each leaf of the same plant is distinctive which just goes to show the intricacies of nature.

Leaves are easily accessible. They can be found almost everywhere you look, from the ones in the garden to the produce section in the grocery.

Your subject may be just a singular leaf, it may also be a pile of leaves. It can be in its natural state hanging at the end of a plant stem in a field, it might also have fallen and drifted to the edge of a concrete sidewalk. The possibilities of capturing stunning leaf shots are only limited by your creativity and skills as a photographer.

Did you know that leaf shots make great stock photos? Some clients buy them because they can be the perfect background for a magazine cover or a blog template, others buy them purely because they look interesting. You can upload hundreds of leaf shots to your online portfolio and each one would be unique and a possible sale.

The question is how do you make each shot interesting? Sure, the leaf itself is one of a kind but if your shot is uninspired, it will be obvious and your good shots will be buried under your mediocre ones.

Here's what you can do to spice things up:

Highlight its best feature. What is it about the leaf that makes it so special? Is it the strange patterns or the large veins? Maybe it is the color? If so, play around with the lighting to show it off. With this photo, I used the backlighting technique to further enhance the golden color of the leaf. A simple black background was used to add contrast to the gold hues. The lighting method also brought attention to the fascinating vein patterns.

Add 'props' such as water drops. Yes, dew or water droplets on a leaf would be considered a 'cliché' shot but if it does make your shot more interesting then why not. Try to surprise the viewer by going one step further such as overdoing the number of droplets such as in this leaf shot. The droplets make wonderful patterns and you might notice that they also magnify the details of the leaf which add to its 'interestingness'.

Do something to the leaf itself. Capture it as it is burning, cut it into strips, write on it, tear it, bend it, fold it, weave it, roll it, freeze it, dry it out in the sun, press it, wrap it around something. The shots you take after doing any of this are bound to be attention-grabbing. Of course, still keep the basic photography principles in mind or else you might end up with a very unappealing shot of some green mush that barely looks like a leaf.

Close up and macro shots are often used for leaf shot but it really depends on how you compose the shot. Depth of field can provide focus on only a few leaves while keeping the other leaves blurred and therefore less distracting in the background. The more you shoot leaves, the easier it will become for you to know how to show its uniqueness.

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