Nikon Learn & Explore

One Shot: Stamps of Approval

Cindy Dyer photo of a purple water lily, the original image which is on a US Postage Stamp

© Cindy Dyer

Cindy's original image.

Whenever you get the chance, display your photographs.

Anywhere and everywhere.

In galleries and exhibits. In your home and your office. On social media.


Listen to this:

A few years ago, Cindy Dyer, who specializes in botanical images, had an exhibit of 88 photographs at one of her favorite places to photograph, Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia. During the course of the exhibit her images were seen by a woman whose husband was an art director for the United States Postal Service. At that time he was looking for specific images to license for postage stamps. His wife mentioned Cindy's images to him and...well, you see where this is going.

After much picking and choosing, rejecting and selecting and even the taking of additional images, five of Cindy's photographs of varieties of ferns were chosen, and each one became a First Class Forever stamp.

Recently, four of Cindy's images of water lilies joined them. These stamps, however, were not printed in the post office's usual run of 20 to 40 million; rather, half a billion of the water lilies were printed, an unusual total for stamps other than those issued for holidays. "Flowers sell well," Cindy says of the post office's expectation of high demand for her colorful quartet.

Not only is the print run unusual, so is getting anything onto a postage stamp. Cindy tells us that of the 40,000 stamp subject suggestions that come into the Postal Service each year, only about 20 make it onto stamps.

Cindy made the water lily images at the Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC, which is another of her preferred places for photography. In additional to the performance of her tripod-mounted Nikon camera and Micro-NIKKOR lens, she credits two key accessories: a Nikon ML-L3 infrared wireless remote control that insured the camera's steadiness, and the triangle-shaped 32-inch Fancierstudio translucent diffuser she held between the sun and her subjects to soften and spread the ambient light. "I always carry that hand-held diffuser with me," she says. "It's one of the most important accessories in my flower portrait toolbox."

Cindy did some of the retouching of the original photos; the Postal Service's art director did additional retouching and cropped the images.  

Cindy wouldn't be surprised if the future holds more stamps featuring her photographs. "You get your foot in the door and you never can tell," she says.

The specs: D7000, AF-S VR Micro-NIKKOR 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED, 1/100 second, f/11, ISO 400, manual exposure, center-weighted metering; 500,000,000 stamps @ 49¢=$245,000,000.

Single stamp image of the purple water lily photographed originally by Cindy Dyer

One of the Forever Stamps.
© 2015 U.S. Postal Service

four up image of four water lily stamps, the original photos were taken by Cindy Dyer

The water lily stamps, collected.
© 2015 U.S. Postal Service