Sunflower fields are incredible for photography, thanks to their bright colors, powerful silhouettes, and eye-catching repetition. But how can you take advantage of beautiful sunflower fields? And how can you even find sunflower fields to photograph in the first place?
Fortunately, in this article, you’ll find the answer to all your sunflower-related photography questions. I’ll cover:
- How to find the best sunflower fields for photoshoots
- The perfect gear and camera settings to capture stunning sunflower photos
- How to create a beautiful sunflower landscape, portrait, or close-up shot
- Some fun sunflower photoshoot ideas
- Much, much more
So if you’re ready to become a sunflower expert, then let’s dive right in.
Sunflower Photography Tips:
How to Find the Perfect Sunflower Field Near You
Sunflower fields aren’t exactly common, so finding one can take a bit of work – but trust me, it’ll be worth it in the end. Also, once you’ve found a good field, you can come back to it year after year, so it pays to put in the effort.
Some locations have handy online sunflower field directories, so the easiest way to get started is to simply type “YOUR LOCATION + sunflower fields” into Google. For instance, I live in Michigan, so a quick “Michigan sunflower fields” search brought up a handful of helpful sites, all featuring different sunflower fields.
You might also try asking in a local photography group on Facebook (or any group, really; plenty of folks notice sunflower fields, even if they’re not photographers, and will likely be willing to help you out). Just explain the situation, why you need a sunflower field, and bam, you’ll have a number of helpful neighbors telling you where to go.
And one more tip:
If you’ve tried both of the above options and are coming up empty, use Instagram’s search function. Type in “YOUR LOCATION + sunflower field,” and you’ll hopefully get several relevant results – that is, sunflower field photos taken in the area. To determine the exact location, you can message the photographer, or you can check the photo’s hashtags, where location information is often hidden.
When to Shoot Sunflowers (Beginning, Peak, and End Times)
Sunflowers tend to bloom in the second half of the summer – starting around July, peaking in August, and ending in September – though the best times to shoot sunflowers will vary depending on your location.
A single sunflower blooms for a relatively long time (around 20 days), so as long as you get the right time period, you’ll likely have some success at your sunflower field.
Note that the type of photo you’re after will dictate the length of your shooting window. For a scenic shot of a yellow field at sunset, you’ll need to go during peak bloom times (probably in August, though again, this will depend on your location – check local gardening sites if you’re uncertain, or call the owners of a field or two to find out their thoughts).
But for a dramatic portrait that only features a single sunflower in front of your subject’s face, booking the shoot early or late in the bloom schedule shouldn’t be a problem. Plus, if you’re creative, you can use wilting sunflowers to add atmosphere.
Best Gear for Sunflower Field Photography
Now let’s take a quick look at the ideal for sunflower field photography, with the caveat that different types of sunflower photos do require very different approaches.
I highly recommend you shoot sunflowers with a DSLR or a mirrorless camera; the image quality is the best, you’ll get top-notch dynamic range (great for landscape shots), and you’ll have plenty of control over your settings.
(If you’re not sure what settings to choose, don’t worry – I discuss that in a later section.)
A smartphone camera or a point-and-shoot camera can work, but you’ll struggle to capture printable images, plus your ability to control key settings such as aperture will be severely limited or non-existent.
Before picking a lens for sunflower field photography, ask yourself:
What do I actually want to shoot?
If the answer is portraits, then use a 35mm lens (for environmental portraits that also feature sunflowers), a 50mm lens (for more standard portraits), or an 85mm lens (for tighter portraits and headshots). Make sure your lens has a wide maximum aperture such as f/1.8; that way, you can create stunning blurry backgrounds when shooting.
If you want to shoot scenics of a sunflower field in bloom, then go with the widest lens you own. A lens in the 14-18mm range (on a full-frame camera) is ideal, but a 24-70mm lens or a 24mm prime can also work.
For close-up sunflower shots, you’ll want a dedicated macro lens, which will offer tremendous magnification capabilities to capture even the tiniest of details.
In truth, though, the best camera (and lens, by extension) is the one you have with you. So no need to go out and buy a lens; instead, make do with what you’ve got.
Generally speaking, you don’t need filters for sunflower field photography, but a polarizer can help boost the colors. And a neutral density filter can be ideal for sunflower landscape photography (assuming you don’t mind some sunflower motion blur) because it’ll let you lengthen your shutter speed for stretchy clouds.
If you’re hoping to shoot sunflower portraits, no tripod is necessary – but for landscape photographers and even some macro/close-up photographers, a tripod is a huge help. You can use it to stabilize your camera, even as the shutter speed stretches to 1 second, 5 seconds, and more.
Key Camera Settings for a Sunflower Photoshoot
So you have the necessary gear, and you’re ready to capture a beautiful photo – but what settings should you use?
I’ve broken it all down for you into four simple sections:
The wider your aperture, the shallower the depth of field, and the blurrier the background of your photo. But narrow the aperture, and you’ll get a deep depth of field with everything in focus.
For portrait photography, a wide aperture – such as f/1.8 or f/2.8 – is the way to go. Thanks to the shallow depth of field, you’ll get your subject tack-sharp but the background blurry (and with a bit of luck, you’ll get some beautiful sunflower bokeh in the background).
For landscape photographers, a narrow aperture is the better pick. With an aperture of f/16, you can render the entire sunflower field sharp, which is generally preferred among today’s landscape community.
And for close-up photography, either aperture option – wide or narrow – is fine; you’ll get interesting and useful effects in both cases.
Because sunflowers aren’t especially active, you don’t have to worry much about shutter speed (unless you want to photograph someone running or jumping through the field, in which case you’ll need a shutter speed that’s fast).
But if you’re handholding, make sure to use the reciprocal rule. And if you’ve dialed in a relatively long shutter speed – hopefully with a tripod – watch for movement in the flowers. You may want to consider capturing two exposures: a fast shot to keep the sunflowers steady, and a slower shot for all-around strong exposure.
As always with ISO, keep it as low as you can afford. Only raise it if absolutely necessary (e.g., you need to boost your shutter speed because the sunflowers are moving too much).
For portrait photography, I recommend autofocus – you can use your camera’s One-Shot AF (i.e., AF-S) setting, focus on your subject’s eye, and then recompose. Or you can shoot with Eye AF, assuming your camera offers this feature.
For landscape and macro photography, however, manual focus is often the better option. It’ll give you fine-tuned control over your scene, which you can use to maximize depth of field and keep your subjects looking exactly as sharp as you desire.
Photographing a Sunflower Portrait: Quick Tips
Aiming to photograph a stunning sunflower portrait? Here are a few tips to help you out.
Ask Your Subject to Wear White, Blue or Orange
You’ll be photographing in the middle of a yellow field, which means that color coordination is essential.
Make sure that your subject avoids sunflower colors – that is, yellows and greens – as these are likely to blend in with the actual flowers.
Instead, aim for a relatively neutral color like white, or colors that go well with yellows, such as blue (a complementary color) or orange (an analogous color).
Shoot on Overcast Days or During the Golden Hours
As with most types of portrait photography, you’ll want to avoid the high-contrast lighting of sunny midday.
Head out on heavily overcast days, where the soft light wraps around your subject and is wonderfully flattering. Or shoot in the evening, when the sun is low in the sky and produces beautiful golden light.
Work With Backlight and Silhouettes
If you do schedule your portrait photoshoot for the golden hours, have some fun capturing backlit images.
Simply position your subject between the camera and the sun and fire away. You can create different effects by including the sun in the frame versus blocking (or partially blocking) the sun with your subject, so make sure to experiment.
And while not all backlit photography leads to silhouettes, try to take a few; surrounded by sunflowers, a portrait silhouette can look gorgeous.
Use Sunflowers to Frame Your Subject
You’re doing portraits in a field of sunflowers, so why not take advantage of the natural beauty all around?
Ask your subject to stand close to the sunflowers, then make sure you crouch down so flower heads fill the frame. You might also position some flowers in the foreground; by using a wide aperture, you can create a pleasing wash of color that complements your main subject while also focusing the eye.
Photographing a Sunflower Landscape: Quick Tips
If you’re after a landscape shot of a sunflower field, then here are my recommendations:
Head Out at Sunset (and Stay Until Night)
The golden light of sunset is amazing for landscape photography, and it looks especially gorgeous when combined with the yellows of a sunflower field. Sunset light is soft, plus it’s warm and inviting, so make sure you time your photoshoot carefully.
Also, check the weather in advance; for the best images, you’ll want to photograph on a day with some clouds, because it’s those partly cloudy days that produce the most extraordinary sunsets.
And don’t pack up once sunset is over, either. You can create some stunning images just by staying through the blue hour. For instance, you might capture some lovely long exposure shots, with clouds blurring across the sky (another reason clouds are important!) and sunflowers waving in the wind.
Use the Near-Far Composition Technique
The near-far composition technique is easy to follow, and it’s a great way to produce photos with lots of depth and dimension.
Here’s what you do:
Find a distant (far) subject in the sunflower field or on the horizon, like a lone tree or an interesting barn.
Then hunt for a foreground (near) subject, something that can grab the viewer’s attention and pull them into the photo. Generally, the foreground subject would be a sunflower – or two or three or four. When carefully juxtaposed with a beautiful background subject, the resulting photos will look ultra-professional.
Isolate a Subject (or Two)
When it comes to landscape photography, simplification and isolation is essential – especially when you’re shooting in a field full of colors and interesting shapes.
Instead of trying to capture the entire field in a single shot, slow down and do some careful composing. You can use the near-far composition technique I highlighted above, or you can simply isolate a few sunflowers from the rest. Then try to show these few sunflowers as effectively as possible while removing all distractions from the frame.
Pro tip: If you’re struggling to isolate a few sunflowers from the rest, your lens might be too wide. Try switching to a telephoto option, like a 70-200mm.
Photographing a Sunflower (Up Close): Quick Tips
Sunflower macro photography is tremendously fun. But for the best shots, you’ll want to approach the flowers with discipline and careful thought. Here’s my advice:
Find a Non-Distracting Background
Nothing will ruin a beautiful sunflower photo quicker than an unpleasant background.
For instance, a background with lots of vaguely out-of-focus sunflower shapes will draw the eye and keep the viewer from fully appreciating your main subject. Same with a background with too many colors, or a background with people or street signs or pretty much anything beyond a simple wash of color.
So before you hit the shutter button, critically observe the area behind your subject. And ask yourself: How could the current background be improved? Does it distract the viewer from the main event?
You can often create a better background simply by changing your perspective – for instance, dropping down low to the ground so the background becomes a blue sky, or shifting to the right or left to change the objects just behind your main sunflower.
You can also create better backgrounds by following my next tip:
Use an Ultra-Wide Aperture
Not all macro photography profits from an ultra-wide aperture, but if you’re after a beautiful, soft-focus effect – plus simple backgrounds composed of color washes – I highly recommend you give it a try.
Simply make sure your camera is set to Aperture Priority mode or Manual mode, then dial in the widest aperture your lens allows. Personally, I’m a fan of f/2.8, but if your lens only goes to f/4 or f/5.6, that’s okay, too (and if your lens goes wider than f/2.8, continue to push!).
Of course, a blurry background and a lovely soft-focus effect isn’t an excuse to stop thinking about composition, isolation, and simplification. You should always pay attention to the colors and objects in your image, and do what you can to produce a harmonious whole. If you can create a soft-focus effect while also ensuring the background colors complement your main subject, you’ll get some standout shots.
Shoot on Cloudy Days
Cloudy days are perfect for flower macro photography. The soft light brings out colors in a flattering, down-to-earth way, especially compared to photographing at midday, when the overhead light produces insanely unflattering shadows.
Overcast light, while beautiful and soft, isn’t especially strong, so make sure you practice careful handholding techniques (and consider bringing a tripod). Keep a reasonable shutter speed – and if necessary, boost your ISO.
Don’t Be Afraid to Get Really Close
In my experience, the best macro photography is bold and daring, so feel free to have fun and get experimental.
For instance, switch your lens to manual focus, then adjust the focus ring until you’re working at 1:1 magnifications. Get closer, closer, closer to your subject, until you’re focused on just a petal.
Then take some stunning abstract photos, using the petal edges and the shifts in tones and colors as compositional focal points. Experiment with different apertures, as well, though starting out ultra-wide is absolutely fine (and it’ll ensure you can use a relatively fast shutter speed, too).
Fun Sunflower Field Photoshoot Ideas (With Examples)
In the final section of this article, I share a few photoshoot ideas you can use to jumpstart your sunflower field photography. Most are portrait suggestions, but I’ve also snuck in a few landscape/macro ideas, as well!
Hands in the Air
This one’s a sunflower field classic. Ask your subject to stand in the middle of the sunflowers, facing in any direction – then have them throw their hands in the air (you might ask them to jump, as well!).
Looking Off in the Distance
For a more wistful, nostalgic shot, ask your subject to face away from you (you might even ask them to walk into the field as you fire the shutter).
Test out different head turns and poses. Also, make sure you get a clear silhouette (try adding a fashionable hat!).
Just a Sunflower Center
Sunflower centers look gorgeous thanks to their stunning color and repetition, so bring out that macro lens and get as close as you can. Here, I’d recommend a narrower aperture (such as f/8, f/11, and beyond) to maximize sharpness. Make sure everything is in focus, even toward the corners of the frame.
Another classic sunflower field photo idea. Ask your subject to pick a few sunflowers – and for added interest, use a basket as a prop.
Of course, be respectful of the sunflower field and the field’s owners (and make sure you don’t ruin the field for other photographers).
Sunflower Against a Blue Sky
Blue and yellow are a wonderful color pair, so shoot on a sunny day, get down low, and frame a single sunflower with a bright blue background. You may need to spend some time isolating a single sunflower from the pack.
For stronger blues, try using a circular polarizing filter.
Sunflower in a Hand
The best sunflower field photos are often extremely simple:
A person smack-dab in the middle of the field, holding a sunflower in one (or both) hands. You might ask them to smell the sunflower, or even place it in front of their face for a slightly more experimental look. Make sure to choose the background carefully – this shot is all about simplification, so avoid distracting background shapes and colors at all costs.
Sunflower Field Photoshoot Tips and Ideas: Conclusion
Now that you’ve finished this article, you should be well-equipped to capture stunning sunflower photos, plus you should have plenty of ideas to get you started.
So find a good field. Choose the right gear and camera settings. And use these tips and tricks to achieve great results!