People are patriotic and often the image of a flag blowing proudly in the breeze is one that is seen as inspiring. There are many other ways to look at flags as well, and the camera can be a wonderful tool for documenting the hundreds of places in which flags appear. This is good news for flag photography.
Consider that many buildings have enormous flag poles mounted in front of them, that they appear in cemeteries all over the countryside, that they are used in ceremonies at sporting events and in parades, and that they are mounted to homes in every neighborhood in every town. That makes for a lot of subject matter for flag photography, but for this discussion we will examine only a few options, and make flag photography a lot of fun.
First of all, flag photography is very popular when taken at events. Photographing the racing flag can be quite a fun subject. checkered flag photography is an easy one to master, as long as your composition is right and you have all the right lighting elements involved.
Flag photography is best done when flags are blowing in the wind. Flag photography images that lay flat lack the kind of power that the original sight inspired. This tends to be because the photographer worked to capture just the flag and didn’t give the image any perspective or depth. Consider the flag flying in front of a public building like a city or town hall. This is an image that will work in only two ways – in a close-up of the detail, or from a bit of distance with some sort of framing included in the shot. Either way, the photographer is going to have to understand the needs of the exposure.
The flag is a moving object, which means a fast shutter speed. It is going to be reflecting light in a few different ways, which means that metering is essential. Lastly, depending upon the composition of the image the photographer is going to have to determine the lens and the depth of field to use. While a close up of the rippling fabric is going to require a zoom lens, the image of the flag and its surrounding environment might benefit from a wider angle. This would mean a smaller aperture, which leads to the fact that a slower shutter speed is necessary for the shot.
When a flag is not a large one mounted to a pole and waving in the breeze, but is part of a different setting altogether, the photographer will have a lot more freedom. Consider the cemetery flags…these are quite dramatic, and can be used as the subject matter for a very conceptual image. Alternately, flags can often serve as leading lines, such as those in front of a building like the United Nations, where they can draw the eye to the landmark building beyond.