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Capturing flowers on film can be a snap

Close-up pictures of flowers are dramatic because they can show the flower, or part of the flower, larger than life, with vivid color and detail.

The most dramatic close-up flower photographs usually involve the use of one or more photographic accessories. Here's a look at a few of these accessories that can give your pictures a professional look.Macro lens. Some zoom lenses offer a macro mode. It's true, these macro-zoom lenses let you take dramatic close-up pictures. However, to get life-size reproduction -- true macro pictures -- you need a macro lens.

A true macro lens also has a much wider maximum aperture than a macro-zoom lens. The wider aperture lets more light into the camera. This increase in light lets you shoot at a faster shutter speed, which reduces the chances of getting a blurry picture due to camera shake.

Screw-on lenses. If you don't want to invest in a macro lens, try a set of screw-on close-up lenses. These accessory lenses, which attach to a lens like a filter, don't produce pictures with the sharpness of a macro lens, but they are fun to use.

Flash and coil cord. An accessory flash can dramatically increase the brightness, sharpness and contrast of a scene. For maximum lighting control, use a coil cord. This accessory lets you hold the flash over, under, behind and to the side of your subject for creative lighting.

Close-up reflector. On sunny days, a close-up reflector, which attaches around a lens and bounces sunlight onto a subject, is a useful accessory. This mini-reflector can make the scene brighter, so you can shoot at smaller f-stop for greater depth-of-field; it can also reduce shadows for a softer-looking picture.

Tripod. Macro lenses, screw-in close-up lenses and macro-zoom lenses set at the macro mode all magnify camera shake, which can cause blurry pictures. A tripod can eliminate camera shake, even when using shutter speeds of several seconds.

Spray bottle. You have probably seen more than a few contest-winning pictures of flowers coated with what looks like early morning dew drops. To create this effect, give the flower a light squirt with a spray bottle filled with water.

T-shirts. I always have two T-shirts -- one green and one black -- in my close-up accessory pack. No, I don't wear them. I have my wife or assistant hold one behind the flower to eliminate distracting elements in the scene such as branches, twigs or parts of other flowers. Because the shirt is held well beyond my focus point, it is totally blurred. The result is a very pleasing background.