Be it allotment or garden. Do you ever gaze at the beautiful oasis you have created and wish you were better at garden photography? And that you could capture just how fabulous it is? To let others feel the beauty of the sun shining through the leaves? Or the dew clinging to a newly opened rose? Only to find that despite best efforts the image you get lacks the magic that your eye could see. Well I decided to put this right by attending a garden photography course and wanted to share the secrets with you.
Know Your camera
This wasn't learnt on this course but its important, so my first tip to you is learn as much as you can about your camera. For example on the course I did in the summer I learnt that my camera has a built in spirit level. Not sure how I didn't know this - I should have, its there in the viewfinder. But I didn't. This one nugget has lead to much more of my images actually being level and will save hours in editing time!
I had an equally Eureka moment at a course run my Olympus (I have an Olympus Mirrorless Compact) where they told me that you could switch which functions were controlled by which dials. This let me put the controls back where they had been on my beloved Nikon DSLR and meant that my instinctive actions were back where they should be so I could think of other things.
Help can come from a variety of places. The manufacturer will often run workshops and clinics to help you get more out of your equipment, Failing that YouTube is full of helpful videos and if you search your camera model then you will likely find a photography forum where people will be able to help.
So on to what I actually learnt from the garden photography course.
Shoot into the Light
Backlit is best
This is radical and takes a bit of getting used to. The first thing we are taught when we pick up a camera as a child is to get the sun behind you to take the picture. Try and unlearn this when it comes to your garden because what plant doesn't look better with the sun streaming through it? You have to avoid pointing your lens directly at the sun by blocking it with trees or foliage but all in all shooting into the light will enliven your plants and let you capture that sparkle that makes your garden pop.
In the example below I took an ordinary leaf and shot it with the light behind me to get the first image. This is a very ordinary looking leaf. The second image is toward the light but it is too strong and it ruins the image. Changing my position slightly to shield my lens form the glare with the trees makes the leaf shine, showing the red tips along the leaf and giving some nice Bokeh in the background. An ordinary slightly ragged leaf still but a much stronger image than the first one.
- Shooting with light behind camera
- Toward light but unshielded
Shooting into the light brings out colour and texture
Layers and Background
- Unsightly background kind of ruins the shot
- Slightly different angle removes the distraction
It is important to look at the whole picture and not just the beautiful specimen that you want to photograph. So if you take my stunningly charismatic Swiss Chard I didn't really want the road barriers and the car my husband is respraying in the middle of the lawn (WHY?) to feature in the photo. A slight change of angle sorted it. As you can see I am still learning to look at the whole picture!
Capture the colour
See your garden as a palette of different layers - so what plants are behind your prize specimen? Can you move round it to get a better angle and take the shot with something it will stand out against as the background? If all else fails can you lie down? Can you take the shot against the sky? Or tower above it and use the lawn as a background? This way of thinking may even influence your planting in future years.
Don't be afraid to move. Crouch down low and shoot upwards. Shoot from directly above your plant, shoot through other plants so they form a frame. Try 5 shots from one location and then force yourself to move, try 5 more and move again and keep going until your lettuce feels like its walking the red carpet at the Oscars!
Strong shapes like seed heads work well
Now you have a mass of photos its time to review them. Hopefully you will have made loads and loads of mistakes. Mistakes are good news as you can learn much more from a bad photo than a good one. So rather than scrolling through them and hitting delete, delete, delete...STOP. Compare one you like the look of to one you didn't. Was the shutter speed to slow so it was blurry? Was the aperture too small so that you had a big depth of field and could see the rubbish bin in the background? If you don't know much about photography then there are lots of people out there who do. So join a forum, show them your image and ask your questions. You don't need to know the technical terms as you can pick these up as you go along.
I hope these few tips will help you take better pictures. Remember for every stunning image you see on Instagram there are probably 100 disastrous ones that were delete, delete, deleted!
We'd love to see your new found garden photography skills. Tag your images @Haxnicks and we can share them for you.