I sometimes need to take photos of plants while I am in the field so I can Identify them later. Is there a color that works best for plant photos?
Since the purpose of the photos is identification, the background doesn't matter as long as details needed to identify the plant are included. Some techniques photographers are enamored with may be counterproductive.
Some plants may be easier to identify when their natural environment is recognizable. That means not blurring the background too much.
Plant structures, such as leaves, flower parts, bark, and fruits should all be clear. That means not zooming in on individual features to the exclusion of all the others, unless you plan to take multiple pictures. It helps to know exactly what features are needed to identify a plant so appropriate specimens can be selected and presented.
You might still like to have nice photos for other purposes. Consider taking a separate set of photos for presentation.
Look for "hero" shots that makes the plant look like it belongs where it is. If showing photos of a plant for sale, show plants in environments customers might be expected to place them in.
Natural, defocused backgrounds that complement the plant often work well. For fruits, flowers, and other colorful features, the brown and green of the plant itself often look nice.
If you're looking to make the plant stand out, you can consider using a backdrop that's a complementary color to the plants leaves or flowers. Even in choosing to use complementary colors you have some further choices to make.
First, as mentioned in the article above, you need to choose which color model you're using Red, Green, Blue or Red, Yellow, Blue (or something else entirely). I prefer the Red, Green, Blue model because it matches physical light. However, this is a personal choice.
Once you've decided on a color space you need to decide if you want the background to be lighter, the same or darker than the foreground. Using the opposing brightness adds to the contrast in the image, so if you want to make things stand out, go for dark backgrounds with brighter flowers and bright backgrounds with darker flowers.
This can be a jumping off point for experimentation. You might find complementary colors to be too garish in some cases. (Purple/Green and Purple/Yellow both can cause me a headache if they're really bright and saturated!) If so, look at a color wheel for your color model and see if you can make something that looks better.
I would choose a neutral grey background for any subject requiring subsequent technical analysis.
- It does not influence the rendering of the subject.
- It allows for white balance if necessary for reproduction
- It allows for critical comparisons between specimens if necessary.
- It enables easier isolation of the subject for aesthetic use if desired.
- It is ideal for making proper, un-corrected, and repeatable exposures.