Lonely Planet Writer

How to snap a prize photo at Amsterdam’s National Tulip Day

National Tulip Day, which brightens up Amsterdam’s Dam Square each January, is set to return this Saturday, but what exactly is it? And how can you snap that prize-winning photograph?

Tulips are seen placed in front of the Royal Palace at Dam Square to celebrate the beginning of the tulip season in Amsterdam,Netherlands. Photo by Paulo Amorim
Tulips are seen placed in front of the Royal Palace at Dam Square to celebrate the beginning of the tulip season in Amsterdam,Netherlands. Photo by Paulo Amorim Image by Getty Images

Held on the third Saturday of January each year, National Tulip Day marks the official start of the tulip season in the Netherlands by installing a huge temporary garden containing 200,000 tulips on Dam Square, Amsterdam. The build will begin at 8am and the garden will open to the public from 1pm until 4.30pm. Entry is free and visitors are encouraged to peruse the flowers, snap some photos and take a tulip home.

Tulips at the flowers market
Tulips at the flower market Image by Getty

The Dutch obsession with tulips stretches back centuries, but National Tulip Day was only held for the first time back in 2012. It has since blossomed into a major event, attracting around 100,000 visitors each year. But how can you capture the moment forever? Claire Richardson, ‎Picture Editor at Lonely Planet Traveller Magazine, gives us her top tips for snapping a stunning photo:

Keukenhof Gardens, tulips in Amsterdam.
Keukenhof Gardens, tulips in Amsterdam. Image by Getty Images

Take photos at the Golden Hour

‘Consider rising early or visiting a location again in the early evening as the light at dawn and dusk creates the most atmospheric photographs. The light at this time of day will add warm tones and atmosphere to your photographs by backlighting the flower petals and casting softer shadows. Try and avoid shooting around midday when the light is harsher and it casts darker shadows.’

National Tulip Day gets under way in Amsterdam this weekend.
National Tulip Day gets under way in Amsterdam this weekend. Image by Getty Images

Get in Close

‘Have fun and create more graphic shots by filling the whole frame with colourful petals and bulbs. If you have one, a macro lens is perfect for shooting high quality photos close up, but a zoom lens will do just as well. Create a shallow depth of field by focusing in on a bunch of flowers or even single flower in the foreground.  Keeping these sharp will show up details like water droplets on the petals. This will throw the background out of focus in a soft blur of colour, giving your photo depth. For the best effects, get up close to the flowers and use a wide aperture around f/1.8-f/2.8 (or the lowest setting on your zoom lens).

National Tulip Day in Amsterdam, 2015.
National Tulip Day in Amsterdam, 2015. Image by Michel Porro/Getty Images

Get a sense of place

‘Dam square will be in full bloom come National Tulip Day with waves of colourful tulips adorning the square in front of the Royal Palace. To capture a sense of place in your photo, I’d recommend standing as far back as you can and crouch down low in order to fit in as many flowers in the foreground as possible and architecture behind. Use a small aperture and low iso setting to capture as much detail and focus as you can, and you should walk away with a stunning photo and memory of Amsterdam’s famous tulips.’

People attend Dutch National Tulip Day in front of the Royal Palace at Dam Square in 2015
People attend Dutch National Tulip Day in front of the Royal Palace at Dam Square in 2015 Image by Michel Porro/Getty Images

As well as the temporary garden in Dam Square, the Dutch capital boasts a number of tulip-related treats, including the excellent Amsterdam Tulip Museum and Bloemenmarkt, a floating flower market founded in 1860.

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