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Floating Jewels

How to Photograph Water Lilies
As summer begins, so do water lilies start to appear. As photographic subjects they are irresistible – glowing jewel colours and graceful shapes, and for the icing on the cake, you’ll sometimes get a reflection of all that beauty in the water below for double the impact!

water lily nymphaea fire crest

In some ways, because they are so lovely, it seems as if it’s almost impossible to go wrong when you photograph a water lily. But like everything else, a bit of care and thought will hugely increase your chances of getting a fabulous photo.

So what are the ideal conditions for water lily photography? A windless day is always good, as that will help to get mirror like reflections in the water. As far as light is concerned, the best is a bright overcast day – maybe with a high thin layer of white cloud in the sky, or early in the morning when mist is just burning off. This will mean that the photo has a feeling of brightness, without the problems of bright highlights and dark shadows caused by full sunlight.

It’s also good to think about your viewpoint. If the water around the lily is clear of other plants, then getting down low will maximise the flower’s reflection in your photograph.

If the water lily is surrounded by leaves, then you won’t get a reflection, but the leaves can actually create a great backdrop for the flower, as they often make a lovely repeating pattern. Also, because they’re green, they won’t distract attention away from the flower.

Just be careful to choose an area where the leaves are reasonably clean – sometimes they can look very mucky, which isn’t so good. And of course take care to choose an unblemished flower if possible – Photoshop can do a lot, but petals which have started to go past their best and curl at the edges are not so easy to deal with!

Geoff Harris

I am a photography journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill, Steve McCurry and the late Mary Ellen Mark. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time.

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