How to Photograph Tulips in the Netherlands
I always love tulip season in the Netherlands. As a landscape photographer from the Netherlands, I have been photographing and writing about them for many years from all possible angles. In this article, I will share a guide with tips on how you can photograph the Dutch tulip season yourself.
In recent years, local “tulip tourism” has exploded. The most famous place in the Netherlands to photograph flowers is Keukenhof, where I shot a series of photos during COVID without anyone in 2020. The tulip fields around this place were exploding with people in recent years.
Unfortunately, many tulip growers had to take action and put fences around their fields and actively protect them from tourists who were “destroying” their fields. The sad truth is that there are many people (certainly not everyone) who have no respect for tulip fields, stand on the flowers while taking selfies, and even take the flowers from the fields.
I would normally end my article with this, but I think it deserves special attention today: Respect producers’ fields! More on that later.
As a local photographer who has photographed the fields for many years, I have made friends with tulip growers (from PolderPride and other local grower companies). I like to see them every year and take beautiful photos of their tulip fields. When I photograph the fields, I always pay attention. And when I enter the fields, it is with their permission.
Tips for photographing tulips
Now let’s get to the fun stuff because photographing tulips and flowers is Amusing! There are many different angles and conditions for photographing tulips. Here are some inspirations:
Use the obvious guidelines
The easiest way is to use only the main lines of the tulips in your composition. These images always work well and are very easy to shoot. Make sure to enable your camera’s grid. This way you make sure that the lines perfectly cross the exact middle of the picture.
Photography with many different conditions
Of course, a spectacular sunset or sunrise is beautiful around the tulip fields. But dark skies, storms, and even blue skies with puffy clouds look beautiful above the tulip fields. There really is always something to photograph in the fields!
Use a drone
Shooting with a drone gives you a different perspective. Top down views can make for very nice abstract images of tulip fields. Just make sure you are allowed to fly in the field. This is not allowed in all regions of the Netherlands.
Use complementary and contrasting colors
A tulip field often has many rows of tulips of different colors. You can use this to your advantage if you want to match the tulips to the color of the sky. Bright red tulips work well with dark blue skies for example.
Use a bit of a higher ISO
It can be windy in the Netherlands. To ensure flowers are in focus, you often need to use a slightly higher ISO (especially when shooting at sunset or sunrise) to ensure tulips are in focus.
Experiment with portrait orientation. Don’t just shoot in landscape mode. Portrait orientation can sometimes add more depth and layers to an image.
Get very close and use focus stacking
You can get very low and close to the flowers. It takes a while to find “the perfect tulip” in the foreground, but it can be very rewarding when you do. With this technique, your image will look very 3D. You’re getting so close to the tulip in the foreground that you can’t bring it all into focus. Basically, you are close to the maximum focusing distance of your lens.
If you can’t get both foreground and background into focus, you can use a technique called “focus stacking.” With this, you take a shot of the foreground, middle, and background, and merge them in post-processing to get a clean front-to-back shot. Note that this technique can only be performed with virtually no wind.
To note: I also teach this post-processing technique in my editing course.
Find interesting tulips that stand out and take close-ups
Pass the rows of tulips closely and see which ones stand out. And try shooting them with a telephoto lens. I even use 400mm sometimes and get quite far away. This way you can take a super dreamy picture of a single tulip. Of course, you can also use a macro lens. Fun fact: Although upright tulips are beautiful, they are usually “sick”. Tulip growers pull them all out of the fields before they harvest.
Get closer for flower details
Get even closer to capture the finest details of the flowers. You can get very close with a macro or telephoto lens to photograph the small details of the tulips. Morning dew drops for example, or simply the elegant shapes and colors of flowers. Sometimes I can spend an hour photographing a single tulip from all angles.
When are tulips found in the Netherlands?
If you’re visiting mid-April, you’re usually good to go. We can never be sure when the first tulips appear and different parts of the country bloom at different times. Tulips weeks earlier or weeks later depending on the weather of the season. As it is quite warm at the beginning of the year, we currently expect to see the first tulips in early April or perhaps even a little earlier.
Where are the most beautiful Dutch tulip fields?
It’s a question I get asked often and the truth is: I can never give an exact location. The tulip fields are always different every year. Of course, there are areas in the country with plenty of tulip fields, but you’ll need to check them every year to see which exact field is right for you. They also often change slightly, as it is difficult to grow the same flower on the same field for several years in a row. It could mean that you have a beautiful field of tulips right in front of a windmill one year, but it won’t be there the next.
I wrote an article in 2017 about some regions in the Netherlands where you can find tulips. These locations haven’t changed much. There is also a tulip route in the country’s Noord Oostpolder, which is a designated route with tulip fields that you can travel by car. I would recommend doing this if you don’t know where to start.
Rules to follow when shooting tulips
I would like to conclude this article by returning to the beginning. Photographing tulips is fine, but keep in mind that you are on someone’s property.
DO NOT access the tulip fields surrounded by a fence. This fence is there for a reason.
DO NOT enter the tulip fields without the permission of the tulip grower. Sometimes they work on their land. If you see people working, just approach them and ask who owns the field. This is how I have made friends over the years. I love chatting with growers about their flowers. They always speak with passion. Then just ask if they’re okay with you taking pictures of their flowers. Ask for their email address and send them some of your photos. This way you will always be welcome in their fields.
DO NOT take flowers from the fields. They are not yours!
DO always be careful when walking in the fields (with permission). Treat the land as if it were your own garden. Respect the fields.
DO take great pictures!
Photographing tulips is different every year. Different conditions, different flowers (did you know they produce brand new tulips every year?), different weather, different fields. I really can never get tired of photographing tulips! Let’s all follow the rules and be kind to our tulip growers. And enjoy the beauty and the smell of these beautiful flowers!
PS If you are interested in how I edit all my photography (including lessons on how to edit photos of tulips and flowers), please check out my comprehensive landscape photography editing course.
About the Author: Albert Dros is an award-winning Dutch photographer. The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author. His work has been published by some of the world’s biggest media outlets including TIME, The Huffington Post, The Daily Mail and National Geographic. You can find more of his work on his website, or by following him on Facebook and Instagram. This article was also published here.