A photo shoot for a flower breeder is enormously fun (paid to photograph flowers ?!) but can be tedious.
Recently I shot Week 9 for Syngenta Flowers, the ninth week of 2020. Flower breeders grow their flowers to perfection under controlled greenhouses for precise timing, to be judged by their own marketing personnel, then trialed to show potential customers, and photographed for eventual distribution. I like to think that they grow them just for me.
Syngenta, in Gilroy, California is one of the largest wholesale breeders of hybrid flower seed and cuttings in the world – developing and producing flower seeds and cuttings for growers internationally. Their flower photos must be exactly right.
For complete control I set up a miniature studio in one of their greenhouses, setting up a table and a vinyl seamless background, and use studio strobe lights for exact control and color balance. Often I work with a stylist, in this case the inimitable Linda Peters, who helps keep track all the flowers by their internal test names, where they are located in the dozens of grow houses, and helps me prep and fluff the plants.
Before each flower is photographed I take a picture of it with a gray card to be sure the color balance will be correct with the strobe lights. Some colors are tricky and there might be a subtle shift in the camera file due to infrared color that is invisible to our eye. So sometimes, I include a Pantone color swatch.
This particular dungaree blue color was very different from other Aubretia Rock cress hybrids I have seen, so I took a photo with a color swatch to be sure I could match it later, using a daylight proofing light in the studio.
In some flowers, particularly whites, the highlights blur together and require some extra help in post production using PhotoShop highlight layers. These somewhat subtle iprovements make a big difference in the final catalog.
Before and After Slider
Occasionally I get to shoot, editorial style, without the perfect color correcting strobe lights in the main grow houses among the tens of thousands of flowers.