Sunny days lead to sunflowers. It’s the colorful time of year where farms across the state are open to public viewing of the flower that is synonymous with summer.
These happy flowers are native to North America and are known for tracking the sun throughout the day. Their popularity has increased in recent years as families, couples and friends have discovered that a sunflower field is the best place to capture the perfect photo.
We asked photographer Justin Kase Conder, who has captured many of the photos used in social media and advertising for the NC State Fair as well as photos for the NCAA, ESPN, the United States Army, PBS and others, some of his best tips for photographing friends and families in a sunflower field. His suggestions are below.
“These are fundamentals of a good photograph, whether it is at a sunflower field, on a beach or any other location,” said Justin.
The background is just as important as the subject.
Take the photo with the background in mind. Make sure you don’t have telephone poles, power lines or a flower sticking out the top of someone’s head.
Don’t be afraid of early morning or late afternoon.
Lighting is important. The bright sun that comes at midday can give your subject raccoon eyes. Photographers will often refer to the “golden hour” which happens about an hour before sunset. That time period usually offers the best lighting for a photo.
Get down on your subjects’ level.
Lay down on the ground if you have too. A lot of times when someone is taking pictures of children they shoot down on them, which can make them look smaller. Lay on the ground and shoot up at your subject and the flowers – you’ll be happy with your shot. A lower level, either on your knees or on the ground, provides a better shot.
Don’t just stand in front of the flowers.
This one might take some forethought. Some of the best pictures involve activity. Bring a ball, pick a flower (if allowed) or just run around. Sometimes the best pictures are when you are actively doing things in the photo.
If you are doing a group shot that is posed make it more casual.
Try increasing the distance between subjects, have them casually put their arms around each other’s shoulders. Avoid rigid formal poses when you are not in a rigid formal place. Justin suggests having everyone close their eyes and then open on the count of three – this is to help get the best shot with everyone’s eyes open.
Solid patterns are more attractive to the eye when the background is sunflowers.
Avoid busy patterns or shirts with logos or advertisements. Pick sold bright colors.
There is a saying that if your pictures aren’t good then you are not close enough to your subject. Don’t be afraid to get close even if you don’t get their whole body or flower. Just be sure not to cut a person off at a joint. It is better to cut at the thigh, shin or waist than the ankle.
For Instagram… Don’t overfilter.
Your kids are going to look at the photos one day and wonder what you were thinking. Filters will probably not age as well with time.
If there are multiple phones and cameras trying to get the same group shot…
Justin suggest taking pictures one at a time or let the person with the best camera phone take the photo and AirDrop to the others. That will better ensure everyone’s eyes are looking the same way.
Check out the NC Farms App to find sunflower fields near you. Or check out this post by the Common Traveler for an updated list of places to see sunflowers in North Carolina. Always remember to call or check social media before heading out to the farm.