Low key botanical photography (gallery)

A photo is “low-key” when large areas are deliberately underexposed so that they appear uniformly black with little or no detail. The appeal of such photos is that the main subject stands forwards with an enhanced clarity. I have found the technique works particularly well with botanical subjects – plants, flowers, leaves, branches etc. Of the eighteen examples below, some were shot indoors and artificially lit, but most were captured in the garden, photographed against black fences or deep shadow.

A photograph appears “botanical” when it captures some aspect of the intrinsic form and character of a plant, flower or leaf. Before photography, botanical prints were hand-drawn, etchings or watercolours that aimed to classify and identify different plants. Something of the same scientific qualities shine through in botanical photographs. Although a few of the photos below are more artistic (e.g. Moon apple and Two-lips), the majority have the required technical character to qualify as botanical.

Keir Watson

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