Photography of Flowers: 5 Ways Floral Artists Source Flowers
The photography of flowers presents floral artists with an ongoing problem: how to source fresh flowers inexpensively for floral artwork projects? This is true, whether the photographer’s specialty is still-life, garden, or wildflower blooms—sadly, flowers have a limited lifespan!
But that limited lifespan also creates the opportunity to acquire flowers for photography from wholesalers, especially if you’re prepared to be flexible on the type of bloom. Who grows flowers commercially in your area? Which flowers are currently in season? Is it possible to pick flowers at a local flower farm?
In opening to these ideas, my photography of flowers has created a daisy-chain effect: wonderful connections with local flower growers! Here are the five top flower sources I’ve discovered to help me develop my floral artwork.
- Pick fresh flowers at a flower farm
- Visit a farmers’ market
- Trade with local florists
- Forage for neighborhood flowers
- Grow your own flowers
1. Pick Fresh Flowers at a Flower Farm—U-PICK Fields
One of my most memorable flower photo shoots came from flowers I purchased with my daughter from a local U-PICK flower farm. The farm was twenty minutes from our home, and they offer a weekly Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box for regular subscribers of fruits and vegetables. U-PICK also have a farm stand where the public can purchase produce. I had attended their berry U-PICKs before but hadn’t experienced a flower U-PICK. I was in for a treat!
It was a beautiful morning for the photography of flowers! My daughter and I were prepared with baskets and clippers to harvest the dahlia flowers. Dahlias are a perfect flower for macro floral photography. I had my camera and we each had our iPhones. We allowed ourselves plenty of time and—with no one around us—we felt free to photograph the flowers as we were selecting them for purchase.
I took dozens of photographs that morning. Pictures of my daughter carrying our basket filled with flowers; images of her walking towards me or picking flowers. At one point, I sat down amidst that field of flowers and, bending even lower to the ground, I aimed my camera up as my daughter held a single stem to the sky. Focusing in on her hand, the flower was radiant and so luminous against that perfect blue sky. A few quick shots, and we moved on.
I took hundreds of images in the flower field that morning, but that one I took of my daughter holding the single stem evokes the strongest memories and is one of my favorites, to this day. A large canvas print of the image now hangs on the wall of a local business, bringing something of that day’s luminosity to those who see it.
My advice: If you are looking for U-Pick opportunities, ask farmers who sell at your local farmers’ markets. They may offer U-PICK opportunities themselves, or know of other farmers who do.
2. Farmers’ Markets—Fresh Flowers, Reasonable Prices
The photography of flowers requires the ongoing purchase of fresh blooms! I love to shop weekly at our local farmers’ market for fresh fruit and vegetables. Farmers’ Markets, I discovered, are also a great place to find fresh flowers! Even unusual blooms like the Australian banksia flower, which I use in my floral artwork and enjoying giving to friends. Banksia flowers are quite a novelty for me as I certainly never encountered one growing up in the Midwest!
Another flower vendor at the San Luis Obispo Farmers’ Market, is our local university Horticulture and Crops Science Department. They have lovely bouquets and many varieties of flower for a very reasonable price. Esther of Esther’s Gardens (shown here, at her stall) is a flower vendor who has been donating to the Food Bank for years. I love her sunflowers and other flowers, such as sweet peas. I could go on and on with my list!
My advice: I encourage you to shop locally at your farmers’ markets. Get to know your local flower farmers. Ask about what they grow, how they grow, what’s in season, and when they offer various varieties. You’ll open a world of gorgeous flowers and wonderful connections!
3. Trade Your Photography Skills with Local Florists
For many years, I have traded photography services for flowers from a local flower farmer, Courtney Mellblom (shown below in her greenhouse) of Farmermaid Flowers. It’s enabled me to continue my photography of flowers, while also helping her build an online database of her flower stock for her wholesale clients. My flower photography has also provided her with branding images she uses on her website, and social media platforms.
I was delighted to trade my photographic services for Courtney's gorgeous flowers! It gave me the opportunity to work with her, and to learn about the local floral industry and how it operates. I don’t know that I’ve met anyone who works as hard as flower farmers—truly! They work seven days per week; long, long days, and rarely take vacation!
Recognizing this work, is one of many reasons I like to support farmers and growers in San Luis Obispo County, and to encourage people to shop locally. Please check out Courtney’s website and her work! If you are local, please consider buying from her gorgeous range of flowers. This can be done directly at many SLO county farmers’ markets each week, and also via a local delivery service. Courtney also showcases her floral artistry by designing for weddings and special events.
My advice: Do a little research into flower farmers or florists who may be wholesaling in your area and be interested in regularly trading flowers for your photographic services.
4. Forage for Neighborhood Flowers—But Always Ask First :)
I often notice the flowers growing in neighborhood gardens as I take my evening walks. It’s not just the floral artist in me that loves to see the changes of season. And I still marvel at what grows here on the Central California Coast. So different to those I saw growing up in Michigan and Minnesota. Birds of Paradise, palm trees, fruit trees in abundance, all year long! I’m amazed at the colors we enjoy all the year ‘round, compared to the monotone colors of a Midwestern winter
But, in the Midwest—in colder climates—when spring arrives, the flowers and trees pop open! You’ve never seen such beauty and variety of color! There is so much beauty in all seasons, across a range of geography and climate.
If I’m interested in photographing a flower I’ve seen in my neighborhood, perhaps a gorgeous, old-fashioned rose, or something slightly exotic, I always ask. Even if I know the house is rented. Gardens are private space and, as well all know, flowers are special!
My advice: When those seasonal changes come, traverse nearby streets and connect with your neighbors. When flowers are in abundance, they’ll be more opening to sharing with you. But always ask, politely accept their answer, and always say ‘thank you’, even if the answer is no. Respect your neighbors and—who knows?—maybe they’ll be more agreeable next time.
5. Grow Your Own Flowers—Garden or Not
Artwork with flowers can start very small, with a packet of seeds or cuttings from a friend’s garden. I love to share cuttings from my garden, including mailing them to friends in different parts of the country! To date, my flower care packages include:
- Succulents to an artist friend in Alaska
- Lemon verbena to an artist friend in Austin, and
- Cuttings to a photographer friend in Philadelphia.
It makes me happy to think of fragments of my garden setting down roots at homes of friends—near and distant. What I share will grow in their yard; something for them to enjoy and connect us more closely.
What if you don’t have a garden or patio? How about planting flowers somewhere in your community? Years ago, we planted sunflowers at my daughter’s elementary school. They grew taller than any of us! Those flowers shot up in a beautiful line, a burst of yellow on a corner alongside the school. So much joy and beauty for so little time and cost. And the most patient of photographic subjects. :)
My advice: Don't feel defeated if you're unable to access local growers or easily get to a farmers' market: start small and grow you own. You'll have the fascination of a floral subject throughout its growth cycle, and for a lot longer than a cut flower.
I hope these five tips from my work as a floral artist help you source fresh flowers and continue your artwork with flowers. What’s more, I hope you find that your photography of flowers is a way for you to connect with and support local flower growers, and to bring the joy of flowers to those around you.
If you have advice on finding fresh flowers in your area, or a story about how you source fresh flowers for photography, please comment below or share with us on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you!