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Guest Blog

Next in a series of guest blogs looking at the work of other photographers. My last guest was Lin Gibbons, a specialist in an area where I have fairly limited experience: dog photography. This article is devoted to an even more specialist area: flower photography in the studio.

Contact for Photography

Guest Blog: Cynthia Miller

I am a member of various photography groups on Facebook – some devoted to particular disciplines in photography and others to specific camera systems. The latter include Lumix and MFT groups – and that is where I came across Cynthia’s work. Her patience and determination to experiment and push boundaries to perfect her flower photography draw admiration from many of us, and I really wanted to give her work exposure to a wider public. 

Like Lin, Cynthia is a West Country photographer, based near Bristol. Semi-retired, she is Programme Secretary of her local camera club, at Backwell.  Most of her flower photography is done in the home, and some of it gets pretty technical, as you will see!

Cynthia was kind enough to send me a generous selection of her flower photography. I put some images together on the page, and then interviewed her by phone, with reference to particular photographs.

Looking pretty

Flower Photography

Cynthia, how long have you been photographing flowers at home? And what led you into this field?

It started at a time when I was pretty much immobilised with  a bad back. I was already a keen photographer, since 2003 or so, but that period locked me into the home, and photographing flowers in my kitchen was the best option. 

Would you describe your work as “flower photography”? Still life? I don’t know quite what to call it!

I don’t know either! – flower and nature photography? I do know that when I go out into the countryside, if I take a telephoto I end up missing the macro lens. I do gravitate to close-up, detailed shots.

You use Lumix G series cameras – as I do for my holidays and days off. What made you pick the Micro Four Thirds system, and Lumix in particular?

I really got interested in photography at the start of the digital era. I started with a Fuji Finepix bridge camera. Then came a Nikon D70, which was fabulous, but my back problems made me take the step to MFT. For flower photography the quality from the G9 or G9ii is comparable to a full frame SLR, but the weight is a fraction of that kind of gear.

Vice Versa

Allium Drop 3

Some of your flower photography uses quite incredible close up techniques. I’m thinking of Allium Drop 3. How do you get so close?

That was taken with my old Panasonic Lumix G9 with the wonderful Olympus 60mm macro. This can focus down to about 4″ and magnifies quite a bit so you can get really close. Sometimes I use extension tubes to get even closer with that lens.

And so much is in focus – how do you do that?

That would be focus stacking! You can choose how much depth you want to keep sharp – I would think I took 15-20 shots for that. I have taken up to 100 exposures for really deep focus in extreme close ups. 

Do you put those images together in the camera or afterwards, in post-processing?

Afterwards. Although the original Lumix G9 can do it in camera, I found that it gave me unwanted artefacts in the output images. So I used Affinity Photo until I bought the G9ii. Affinity didn’t like the files from the new body, so I switched to Helicon Focus.

And how did you go about lighting the flower – and getting those perfect water droplets?

I used Adaptalux LED continuous lighting – at least two arms, and possibly more. For droplets I use two methods – on this one, a water spray – a garden mister. You have to spray a lot to get the right effect! If I just want one or two drops I use glycerine in a syringe to place the drop.

Three of Cynthia’s home studio set-ups for flowers.
I love the use of the cooker! All the flower images shown in this article would have been taken with the camera mounted on a tripod.

Some of your pictures seem to have really “weird” colours. I am thinking of Mushroom 2 and of the Beetroot shot that I have used as a cover pic for this article. How do you do that?

UV lighting! The challenge is to get a completely dark room. This is very difficult in my kitchen, with fridge and cooker lights, shiny surfaces and the rest, but it is essential. Then I use the Adaptalux lighting arms with UV filters to get pure UV lighting. Many UV torches and lamps aren’t pure enough – you need to get it pure. Once you have pure UV lighting, the plant materials can be seen absorbing the UV and re-emiting in the visible spectrum. Exposures can be quite long – often 30 seconds to a minute exposure.

I think that some of your UV pictures really take the observer into another world – it is hard to know what we are looking at – you get a feeling of outer space, of clouds of interstellar gas, or of strange creatures in the deep ocean. Amazing! Is the UV at all dangerous? What precautions do you take?

Yes – you need to take care. I always wear UV protective glasses, and avoid looking into the light directly. I avoid skin contact too – and pets are out of the room! You need to be careful.

Mushroom 2

I asked Cynthia to talk me through how she created some photos that I particularly love.

Daisy flower and Smoke 4

This was done with a Godox continuous light source. You can vary these from very warm to very cool (around 4000k) and this was set pretty warm. Then I used a Smoke Ninja to create the smoky atmosphere.

Lumix G9 and Olympus 60mm lens

Orchid 1

Back light from the kitchen window, with a diffuser softening the natural sunlight.

Lumix G9 and Olympus 60mm lens


Single flash from the side, black card behind, low exposure to get that low-key effect. 

Lumix G9 and Olympus 60mm lens

A selection of Cynthia’s work

You have mentioned quite a lot of gear in this interview – not only cameras and lenses but other hardware (like lighting arms) and software (like focus stacking apps.) Is this all a big investment?

Well – it didn’t all come at once – and pension pots are useful! But yes, the investment is at a cost, although the biggest investment is always time.

I think the rewards are great, though! I love your work. What’s next for Cynthia Miller, in terms of techniques or equipment?

I am just learning to get the best from some purchases from the Lensbaby range. I have the Lensbaby Velvet 56mm, which gives me a very soft focus and a sense of glow, which is controllable. I also bought the Composer Pro II which can have different optics slotted in – I have the 50mm Sweet where you can control where the sweet-spot focal point is. And I have the Lensbaby trio 28mm which gives you Velvet, Sweet and Twist – swirly bokeh – options.

A bigger challenge is still ahead. Before I bought the Lumix G9ii I had a Lumix G5 as back up to my G9. The old G9 is now my back-up body – so I have sent the G5 off to be converted for Infra-Red photography. I am looking forward to that!

Beetroot UV

I bet you are, Cynthia – a whole new chunk of the spectrum to explore!

Thank you so much for telling us about your work.

Photos © copyright Cynthia Miller. No reproduction, printing or posting without consent. For all enquiries regarding prints or usage of Cynthia’s flower photography, please contact 

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