Flowers… beautiful, delightful, glorious flowers… they’re my life muse, the reason behind most of my travels, and oh, they’re also my favorite photography subject! One major element of flower photography is using the best type of lens in order to capture all the stunning details and to make the flowers pop and stand out from the background. In this post, I’ll share with you my absolute favorite lenses for flower photography and include some tips on how to choose the best one for yourself! I’ve also included some flower photos that I’ve taken in parks, gardens, and in my living room!
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What Makes a Good Flower Photography Lens?
What makes a good flower photography lens? I have a list of must-have technical specifications, but it also depends on what setting I’m in – whether I’m at home shooting in my living room, or if I’m at a park trying to capture flowers that are a little further away. But first, here are my must-haves.
The lens must:
- Be super sharp, in order to capture those amazing details!
- Be able to create a beautifully blurred background, aka bokeh
- Be able to focus close up (macro)
- Be able to shoot flowers that are farther away, such as magnolias on high trees, or flowers in a park or garden
- Produce beautiful pictures
After years of experimenting with different types of lenses, I’ve found that a fixed telephoto (long focal length) lens that is 50mm or longer, with a wide aperture, meets all of those criteria the best.
I love a fixed focal length lens (a prime lens) because it’s usually sharper and has less distortion than a zoom lens that has variable focal lengths (less complicated = better + more consistent). It’s also usually cheaper than a zoom lens. I like a telephoto lens because it can separate the subject better and create a better bokeh than a non-telephoto lens. It will also allow you to take pictures of flowers without having to get too close and will allow you to take pictures of flowers that are farther away.
I like a lens with a wide aperture because it will create a better bokeh and allow more light in. The aperture is usually indicated by the number after the focal length, with a smaller number/f-stop correlating to a wider aperture. For example, a 50mm f/1.4 lens has a maximum aperture of 1.4, which is wider than a 50mm f/1.8 lens. Note that the wider aperture lens will usually cost more.
Choosing the best lens for yourself will ultimately come down to which focal length is best for your most common shooting environment and which lens is compatible with your camera.
My Two Favorite Lenses for Flower Photography
My two favorite lenses for flower photography are a 105mm macro lens and a 50mm f/1.4 prime lens. The 50mm lens is my go-to lens for most situations, including most pictures shot in my living room, but I absolutely LOVE the 105mm macro lens. I happen to use a Nikon camera, so the ones I have are the Nikon 105mm f2.8g and the Nikon 50mm f1.4G.
What I love about the Nikon 105mm lens is how sharp it is and how every single picture is perfect, at every aperture. Every. Single. Time. Much more so than all of our other lenses somehow, because it seems to have a special kind of magic built-in! It blows me away every time. (Some of the reviews on Amazon are “Scary Sharp”, “Too Sharp”, “My Prized Possession”.) Pictures look fantastic with a beautifully blurred background at every single aperture. With a 50mm lens, I use a very wide aperture to try to get a similar picture, but it still can’t compare to the telephoto macro lens in terms of the bokeh! I may switch to a Sony mirrorless camera later this year and have seen similarly great pictures with the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens.
Being a 105mm macro lens, it can capture incredible flower details and also take pictures of flowers such as magnolias that are higher up on trees (see pics below). I only switch lens if I absolutely have to – for example if I want to be in the picture also but there’s not enough room for Ken to back up to take the photo. In that case, I’ll switch to my other favorite lens, the 50mm.
My Recommendations for Flower Photography Lenses
My recommendation for flower photography is to first get a 50mm prime lens if you don’t already have one. It’s a great all-around versatile lens that should definitely be a part of your kit. The wider the aperture, the better the bokeh will be. Then, I highly recommend a fixed telephoto lens up to 105mm. It won’t be as versatile as the 50mm, and you may not be able use it for flat-lays unless you have a ladder, but it will capture even better, more amazing flower pictures than the 50mm!
As for potential downsides, a telephoto lens may have a longer focal length than is practical for some situations, especially if you do a lot of indoor shooting and you don’t have enough room to back up to achieve the framing that you want. I had to move and rearrange quite a bit of furniture in order to set up a photo spot in my living room so that I can use the 105mm lens without getting only extreme close-ups of my flowers. If you’re concerned about having the same issue, you can get a shorter telephoto lens such as an 85mm. A telephoto lens is also usually more expensive than a 50mm lens, but it’s 100% worth it if you love flower or product photography! I also love it for portrait photography!
Highly Rated Lenses for Flower Photography
I currently use a Nikon DSLR that I love, but I also have a Fuji camera (the fantastic compact X100), and I have used Canon and Sony cameras in the past. All of these companies make great cameras and lenses – the choice is yours! Here are some highly-rated lenses that would be great for flower photography! (all links below from Amazon) Most of these lens are for full-frame cameras (except the Fuji lenses) – they would also work on DX/APS-C cameras, but with a crop factor.
Cell Phone Flower Photography
Cell phone camera quality has become very very good in recent years, especially if there’s adequate lighting, so if you have a newer cell phone, you can certainly use that to capture beautiful flower pictures when you’re traveling or don’t want to carry a heavy camera! (However, keep in mind that a good cell phone picture will still not be able to compare to a DSLR picture in detail and image quality due to the much smaller sensor size!) Here are some tips for cell phone flower photography:
- Use a “Portrait” or “Macro” setting if available.
- Manually select the focus area with your fingers.
- Make sure to not get closer to the subject than the camera’s minimum focus distance.
- Make sure your phone is steady with no hand movement or heavy wind. I use a Popsocket on the back of my large iPhone for balance and really like it!
- Consider a clip-on macro lens with good reviews for your phone camera.
Aside from the focal length and the brand, here are some other factors you should consider for your flower photography lenses:
Versatility – How versatile do you need your lens to be? If you need a single lens to be able to take pictures of flowers, people and flat-lays, then a 105mm lens is probably not a good fit for you. A 50-60mm lens would probably be a better choice in that case. If versatility is not so important to you and you’re willing to switch lens once in awhile, then I would definitely go for a longer focal length lens!
Size and Weight – Pay attention to how big and how heavy the lens is and consider whether you’ll be comfortable with it. Compare it to your other lenses to assess whether it will be manageable for you. My favorite 105mm lens is twice as big and more than twice as heavy as my 50mm lens, but I consider it well worth the extra size and weight!
Product Reviews and Sample Pictures – A good camera lens is a big investment, so I always read both professional and customer reviews to see what the potential shortcomings are, and to see how real life pictures look like. I like to read reviews on both Amazon and B&H Photo Video, both of which allow users to upload their own pictures and allow you to filter for negative reviews. Pay attention to how sharp the details are, how good the bokeh is, and how happy customers are with the lens.
- Tripod – One of the most common causes of blurry pictures is hand movement, so use a tripod if possible. I love my Manfrotto tripod with horizontal arm!
Lens Filter – Finally, make sure that you’re not sabotaging your fantastic lens by putting an inferior lens filter on it! I learned the hard way that using a lower-quality lens filter is a sure-fire way to degrade the quality of your images no matter how good the lens is. I recommend either skipping a lens filter (especially when shooting indoors), or only using a high quality one. Two brands of filters that I use and can recommend are B+W and Nikon.
Thank you for stopping by my blog! I hope you found this post useful, and I hope you have a wonderful day!
Hi, I’m Pansy!
Hello, thanks for stopping by! I’m Pansy, California-based travel + lifestyle blogger, photographer and lover of ALL the pretty flowers! If you browse through my blog, you may notice that most of my travels, DIY and photography center around flowers and nature! 🌸🌼🌿