Cherry blossom season is a popular time in Japan. For the last week of March and the first week of April, both Japanese people and foreigners flock to picnic and party under the voluptuous pale pink blossoms. If you are planning to go cherry blossom viewing in Japan, you probably want to take photos. Let me give you some tips on taking photos of cherry blossoms with your smartphone.
* The photos in the post are plum blossoms, not cherry blossoms. The cherry blossoms were not in bloom at the time of writing this post, and I did not have enough cherry blossom photos on my iPhone. However, you will see, they look similar to cherry blossoms. For the purpose of this blog post, plum blossoms work just as well as cherry blossoms.
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Tips for taking photos of cherry blossoms with your smartphone
Arrive early (or late)
While the cherry blossoms themselves are beautiful, there is one turn off: the crowds. Especially in larger and more popular viewing places. It can get so busy, you could have a hard time finding a spot to picnic.
To avoid this, you might want to arrive very early. As in around sunrise. Especially on the weekends. Not only will you *hopefully* be able to avoid most of the crowd, you’ll get to see the cherry blossoms in a different light. Which brings me to the next point…
Watch the light
You do need to pay attention to the quality and direction of light when taking photos of cherry blossoms with your smartphone. For example, if you are taking photos in the middle of the day in bright sunlight, you might have a problem with shadows. Find the best angle of the cherry blossoms so they are well light. Also pay attention to your own shadow – don’t block the photos with a shadow of your head or hands on the cherry blossoms.
You might find a cloudy day easier for taking photos of cherry blossoms with your smartphone. This is because the light is softer, and you don’t get those harsh shadows.
Fill the frame
Cherry blossoms are pretty tiny. Nothing ruins a photo more than not knowing what your subject is. When taking photos of cherry blossoms with your smartphone, try and fill the frame with the blossoms. This removes distracting things from the edge of the frame. It’s easier for the viewer to tell exactly what you are trying to photography. For more creative travel photography idea, read here.
To do this, it’s best to get as physically close as possible to the cherry blossoms. Try not to use the zoom. Even though your smartphone has a nice camera, the zoom will give you a more pixelated image.
Watch the background
Just like you don’t weird things around the edges of your photo, make sure there are no weird things in the background as well. There will be other people taking photos everywhere, so position yourself in a way that there is nobody in your scene. Yes, it might be difficult, but that’s why you would want to come early. Or find a place that is less busy.
A good smartphone photographer will pay attention to the entire scene, not just the subject of the photo.
Try different perspectives
Sure you can take a photo of the front view of a cherry blossom. Why not try a different angle or perspective. Get down low on the ground, and take a photo looking straight up. Or take a photo from behind the cherry blossom. The point is to look for something different that will make your photo unique.
HDR stands for high dynamic range, and it is a great way to bring out detail in high contrast settings. You can easily take HDR photos with your iPhone and even enhance them in post processing with an app like Snapseed. This will make the details and colours more vivid and vibrant. Just don’t go overboard with the HDR look.
Use a macro lens
Getting up close to a cherry blossom with your smartphone will only get so far. To get even closer, you’ll want a macro lens. A macro lens lets you get super close to the subject. It’s great for taking photos of cherry blossoms with your smartphone, since the individual cherry blossoms are so small anyway.
A think to be careful with when using a macro lens is that your photo is sharp. Since the focus area is quite short, you’ll need a good eye and a steady hand. Moment* has macro lenses for both iPhone and Galaxy phones, so you’ll be able to get super close to the details of the cherry blossoms.
A few photos of people can add character to your cherry blossom photos. For example, a shot that shows how big the crowd is gives a sense of how important the season is. Or a photo with a single person walking or sitting underneath a tree conveys tranquility and serenity. Look for interesting people and include them in your photos. Just remember to respect their privacy and don’t take photos that reveal their identity.
›› Read what type of travel photographer you are…
Taking photos of cherry blossoms with your smartphone is a good time to let your creativity shine. You can take your time walking slowly through the trees contemplating interesting shots and how to make them stand out even more. There are lots of ways to take creative travel photos.
A fun thing I found is this fisheye lens app. It works as a camera, so you can see the fisheye effect in real time. There are different fisheyes to choose from and several filters you can apply. Here is a photo I took with the app of plum blossoms:
Think beyond the cherry blossoms
Most of the time, when it is cherry blossom season, there is a festival happening at the same time. You will probably find rows of food stalls, drink stands, street performers, and people playing games and sports in the park. If you spend all your time focused on the cherry blossoms, you’ll miss all these other interesting things.
Take some time to take photos of your surroundings. Include people, food, and events to give a sense of the celebration and enjoyment in the air.
Edit your photos
I’ve said this before, but just because you took a photo doesn’t mean your job is finished. Taking photos of cherry blossoms with your smartphone means editing them as well. Often our photos don’t look great straight from the camera. They usually need some light or colour adjustments, cropping and straightening, or anything else. There’s no shame in editing your photos. Here’s the kind of difference you can get by editing your smartphone photos:
Conclusion: Taking photos of cherry blossoms with your smartphone
I hope you see you don’t need a DSLR to take beautiful photos of cherry blossoms. You can take great photos of cherry blossoms with your smartphone. Also plum blossoms if you are too early for cherry blossom season! These tips should give you some helpful ideas on how to take better quality and more creative photos that you will enjoy looking at.
What is your favourite tip from this post? Let me know in the comment section below!