SOFTLY DOES IT A LIBERATION FROM FOCUS When I first started photographing florals I was constantly striving for the perfect tack sharp focal point, or sweet spot. I actually believed that a soft image wasn't a good image, or worse, wasn't the product of a professional.
However there has been a significant shift in photography over the past couple of years with the introduction of the iphone camera. The perfect point and shoot tool, with little or no control over focus, the tack sharp, flat images are super crisp. I enjoy using my iphone for snapping flat lays as the crisper focus is ideal. However I still greatly admire, and crave, the distorted blurs that my beloved 50mm 1.4f Nikon lens achieves.
The thinest sliver of a petal may be all that's in focus as the rest of the composition falls away to sheer softness with painted qualities. The atmospheric distortions are poetic and transforms an image beyond its humble reality into a dreamy like poem. Photographing florals with such a significantly narrow depth-of-field is still reserved for those of us with a good camera and more importantly the right lens.
There is another reason I like to shoot this way, that being the element of surprise. The human eye cannot see the distortions made as the light passes though a fully open lens. I can only anticipate the effects. Yet with the added advantage of being able to immediately view an image, or shoot in Liveview, I can see the effects as they unfold. Giving me the added advantage of being about to make adjustments to the composition to either increase or decease the effects I seek. Often floral displays are therefore styled differently too. When I'm styling a flat lay every element of the composition must be perfectly placed and considered. Even damaged leaves, marks and imperfections are all highly visible, but not when shooting with a wide aperture. In this case I can place the best blooms at the front, bulk out the back of the composition with foliage and even faded blooms past their best. The distorted blur is forgiving for all the little imperfections like insect munch marks and even rain damage. This can be a big advantage when foraging in my own garden and hedgerows for sprigs and blossom branches.
Shooting this way becomes more about form and colour as distorted compositional elements take on a new contribution to the overall image. Like the smudge marks in a Monet oil painting even the softest blurs become beautiful hazes, no longer must an image be technically focused, yet instead become free to take on the whimsical liberation of Spring itself.