Updated: Mar 4
It is cherry blossom season and you see your first sakura tree! "Horray!" you yelp with joy! Quickly, you whip out your smartphone to take a photo but it looks like this...
Undaunted, you snap another few photos and think to yourself "I'll just slap a on few filters!" and you feel good about your photo below:
Better! But something just does not feel quite right. But oh well, you got your shot and you are happy.
Good news, taking better photos is not as difficult as you might think! I have 5 top tips below to level up your sakura photography game.
Top 5 tips to level up your sakura game
Tip 1: Choose the right time of the day
The subtle hues of the sakura look flat on a cloudy day.
On a sunny day, the strong sunlight casts hard shadows that ruin the photo.
So it makes sense to shoot at the time of the day when it is sunny but also when the sun is not too harsh. Namely, an hour or two after sunrise and a couple of hours before sunset. We call this time the golden hour because of the beautiful golden light cast by the sun!
Try to time your sakura visit around the golden hours. Oh, and any time on days with partly blue skies work too. The thin layer of clouds act as a giant softbox that diffuses the harsh light of the sun.
Tip 2: Fill in the frame
If you cannot choose the time to take photos, try this technique called "Fill in the frame".
People often try to take a photo of the entire tree. This is what we call a 'wide shot'.
Now try to get a medium shot like below:
That's better. Can you go closer? Yes? Get closer!
Wait, is it close enough? No? Let's go even closer!
Now, you would have 4 different photos taken from 4 different distances.
This is the creative process of photography, trying different things to find something that feels right to you.
Tip 3: Frame your shots
You might have heard photographers often saying "shoot through something" and you are like "what? Hula hoops?".
Well, basically it means creating a frame around your subject.
With a frame, the viewer's eyes are guided to focus on what is inside the frame. We can create frames using the sakura too.
In the photo below, the photographer uses the cherry blossoms to guide the viewer towards the couple in the boat.
You can also use the same framing technique when you do portraits too.
Framing a shot is a great way to use the sakura to guide your viewer's eyes to a subject!
Tip 4: Use Depth of Field
If you have a camera, one easy way to make your photos have that extra "omph" is to use this technique called "depth of field".
Go as close to your subject, in this case a sakura flower or person, if you have a zoom lens, zoom in all the way. Then, simply set your aperture to the lowest number say "f.1.4 or f1.8" and autofocus on the flower(s).
The shallow depth of field will blur out the background (this blur is called 'bokeh' meaning 'out of focus' in Japanese), leaving only the flower or person in focus.
If you are on a mobile phone, some phones have the 'portrait mode' which can create the same effect. However, if your mobile phone does not have the function, download the "Halide" camera app which, will allow you to create the same bokeh effect.
Tip 5: Use Lightroom Mobile to jazz up your photos
Finally, jazz up your photos with a photo editing app. There are so many good apps out there that can make your photos look even better with some editing. I recommend Lightroom Mobile because it is free and it allows you to easily edit your photos.
Here is a photo before editing with Lightroom Mobile.
Here is the photo after light editing with the app.
Nicer, isn't it?
So, here you go! My 5 top tips to help you with your sakura photography!
Choose the right time of the day to photograph
Fill in the frame (get closer!)
Use the sakura to create frames around your subject
Use Depth of Field to create bokeh
Use the Lightroom Mobile App to edit your photos
I hope these tips are useful to up your sakura photography game!
Drop me a message on Instagram or tag me with your sakura photos at www.instagram.com/cj_photo_works
Enjoy the cherry blossom season!
Everyday Life Photographer,