The Color of Flowers

– Posted in: Garden Photography

Have you ever chosen a flowering plant by the color in a catalog or plant tag ?  Since the color we see in flowers is subjective to the color of light surrounding it, how did the photographer know the true color to begin with ?

This Chrysanthemum indicum is called Williamsburg™ Purple.

Williamsburg™ Purple, Chrysanthemum indicum potted flowers on patio plant stand; Licensed Photograph © Syngenta

“Purple” can mean different hues to different people.  Is this the color the breeder wants you to see ?

When I am working on a catalog I use a gray card, a simply industry wide standard tool to calibrate the color, no matter what color the light, and I also use studio strobe lights with a very exact color balance.

Gray card - Williamsburg™ Purple, Chrysanthemum indicum potted flowers on patio plant stand.

On a recent photo shoot for the big agriculture giant, Syngenta, at the California Spring Trials, using a gray card not only allowed me to get the color right, it saved me from an embarrassing mistake.  Instead of setting my camera’s white balance to match the daylight color of the studio strobe lights I was using, I accidentally set the dial to florescent light.  Not a good color choice.

The client would not be very happy to see  Williamsburg™ Purple too blue, without the rich magenta undertones.

Gray card - Williamsburg™ Purple, Chrysanthemum indicum potted flowers on patio plant stand.

It was very obvious when I opened my raw files that every photo was way off.  With the gray card though, it was a quick fix to globally change every photo to the color balance of the strobe lights. In this business, I must get the color right – why else hire a professional ?

I used Adobe Camera Raw, my post production software tool, to change all the photos to the correct white balance.  A simple click of the tool’s dropper function onto the gray card and instantly the computer knows the gray is the exact industry standard neutral gray.


Here is sneak peak of new flower introductions, colors corrected, coming to retail nurseries in the next couple years.

There will be an entire series of Chysanthemums named for cities, like the Williamsburg Purple above.  Chysanthemum indium cultivars have an amazing variety of flower shapes, including spoon shaped petals of Fairbanks™ Purple Spoon:

Fairbanks™ Purple Spoon, Chrysanthemum indicum potted flowers; Licensed Photograph © Syngenta

Milton™ series of Pot mums:

Pot Mum Combo - Spring Milton™, Milton™ Pink. Milton™ Dark Pink, Milton™ Pink Bicolor, potted flowers on patio table - Licensed Photograph © Syngenta

Pelargoniums in the Caliope® Series.  I love the rich color of this one, known for the moment as Medium Dark Red.

Calliope® Medium Dark Red - Pelargonium interspecific potted flowers on patio plant stand; Licensed Photograph © Syngenta

Here Medium Dark Red is paired with Cascade White:

Cascade White - Pelargonium peltatum potted flowers on deck plant stand; Licensed Photograph © Syngenta

How about the color of this Chrysanthemum morifolium  ?  Chrysanthemums usually peak in the fall, so this ‘Stephany Bronze’ is sure to fit right into the season.

'Stephany Bronze', Chrysanthemum morifolium potted flowers on patio; Licensed Photograph © Syngenta

I also got a special peak at the greenhouses at Syngenta, where even newer cultivars are in development, but with names like P2588-14, I can’t leak any new names.

Syngenta Gilroy facilities during 2016 California Spring Trials; Licensed Photograph © Syngenta

You don’t really realize how powerfully fragrant pansies can be until you are in an entire greenhouse filled with them.

Greenhouse light is my favorite, as the whitewashing softens the direct sun but preserves the daylight color balance.  I still use a gray card – in these settings since there can be a color cast to the glass itself, but getting the color exactly right is not so critical.  These photos are not for a catalog.

The main reason for me to be at the Trials was to photograph the new introductions and to bring my lights to calibrate color in a controlled setting.  Take a look at another set up:

Gray card potted flowers on patio plant stand;

Gray card potted flowers on patio plant stand;

Would you know the color is horribly wrong if you did not have the gray card as a calibrating tool?

Shares 63
Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt is the owner of, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at
Saxon Holt

Latest posts by Saxon Holt (see all)

2 Comments… add one

Leave a Comment

[shareaholic app=”recommendations” id=”13070491″]

автополив киев

Acheter Vimax