Every country has a flag that symbolizes that nation and the common interest of the people. A flag is something many share and respect even if they don’t physically own one. Flags are around everywhere and are often taken for granted. A great flag photo can evoke as much emotion as the flag itself. Flags not only speak to patriotism or nationalism but are also considered symbols of celebration and fun. Flag images can make you feel proud, nostalgic, happy or sad whether young or old. Here are some tips to help you take more interesting pictures of flags.
Consider the surroundings
Show the flag and the area nearby. A flag lives in its environment. Flat flags are descriptive, not emotive. That being said, a close-up of a portion of the flag can be powerful. Focusing on just a part of a flag such as a torn and tattered or even blood-spattered corner or edge can represent the fall of a nation or the loss of a loved one in a war or military conflict.
Consider positioning yourself in a spot where the flag becomes the central point in a gathering of people that may be enjoying it in a holiday or festival setting as it waves in the breeze overhead. Including people in your shot also helps portrays a sense of scale.
If you want the flag to be the focus of your composition it should stand out clearly from the background and from the other elements in the picture. If your goal is to introduce a human element to symbolize an emotion, compose your shot with the people as the main subject. Adding a flag to a scene in the right situation can change the feel of the photo. A flag may be a small part of the total composition but just by being there it will make a large statement.
If you want to capture the essence of what a flag stands for you need to catch it in action. Photographing the flag as a moving object requires a fast shutter speed. A close-up of the rippling fabric of a flag most often requires the use of a zoom lens while a shot of the flag in its surroundings might benefit from the use of a wide angle lens. In this case a smaller aperture is key and a slower shutter speed is necessary. Know your camera and its capabilities and be prepared.
A flag should be be photographed blowing in the wind with the deep blue sky behind it. If you happen upon a flag on a day with just enough wind to position it perfectly horizontal in a bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds and it also happens that the sun is directly behind you, you have stumbled upon the perfect opportunity to take a shot. We all know that those days are few and far between. If that same flag is blowing in the wind because of an approaching storm and there are dark clouds behind it you can shoot it from the same angle but the emotion in the final print will change from one of optimism to one of pessimism or impending doom. Yes, you can evoke an emotion in a shot of an inanimate object and flags are a good subject to choose for this purpose.
Digital cameras allow you the luxury of being able to take a lot of pictures in a short amount of time. You need to be patient to catch a waving flag at just the right moment, when the flag is at its most beautiful position. It takes about a 20 mph wind to stand an average sized flag out straight. Set your camera to take a series of shots. Most cameras have a continuous shooting mode that allows the camera to take more than one shot at a time. Shooting images in that manner is quick and means your camera will “buffer” those images before storing them. The more shots you take on continuous mode the longer it will take after you stop shooting before you can start shooting again.
As a general rule you should position yourself with the main light source behind you but be mindful of which direction the flag should be pictured at. Some flags are the same on the front and back and some, like the American flag should be shown in a specific direction. You can photograph the flag with the light directly behind it instead of behind you and capture the light shining through the flag for a different, dramatic look. This can make the flag look almost transparent but the sun has got to be at just the right angle and in just the right height in the sky to be successful. It can be done. Give it a try.
International and Other Types of Flags
If you are traveling to a foreign country and are taking pictures of a landmark or a group of people, including a flag will immediately identify where in the world you were when you took the photo.
Although one’s national flag is the first one that comes to mind, there are other types of flags. Many companies fly flags with their logo outside of their buildings. There are flags that represent organizations of people that come together for special causes or for common interests, as well as school flags, professional sports team flags, motor speedway flags, military flags, and more. Photos of these types of flags mean a lot to the people who are involved in these organizations or event. Who hasn’t seen a great photo of the black and white checkered flag that signals the start and end of an exciting car race? Just thinking about this flag evokes a feeling of power and speed.
Make use of the colors of the flag you are photographing. You can make a flag pop out of it’s surroundings by de-cluttering the other colors that are surrounding it. It takes a bit of looking around but if you can include an element of one or more of the same colors that are in the flag it will create a more artistic composition.
Seek out an area where many flags are on display. Rows of flags on graves produce powerful images. Flags of different countries that you find outside international buildings such as the United Nations or in front of international airline terminals are impressive if taken at an angle where more than one flag can be seen. Hopefully on the day you visit there is a small breeze.
Consider shooting the flag at dusk with a flash. The range of the flash will be shallow, so get as close as you can. Consider lighting a flag from the side instead of head on to capture some nice shadows that give the picture texture and depth. Going to a parade? That’s a great place to take flag photos. Military units and marching bands often carry a flag in front of their units. In the United States flags are mounted on homes in every neighborhood in every town. You can upload your collection and share your photos on Dreamstime.com as well.
Read more: History of Union Jack Flag
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