Great Garden Photographs By Learning From Other Genres

By Geoff Harris

Get Better Garden Shots With Techniques From Other Genres


Garden and plant photography can seem like quite an esoteric and closed world, but the beauty of photography is that you can often apply tricks and techniques from other genres. Here's a quick run down of some commonly used skills from other disciplines that can reinvigorate your tired-looking shots of plants and flowers...

1) Landscape focussing and ISO.


Landscape photographers are highly skilled at extending depth of field, to ensure front to back sharpness. So try using a narrower/smaller aperture to keep everything sharp (it's best not to go beyond f/22 if you can help it, however, to avoid diffraction).

Remember, with narrower apertures, less light is reaching the sensor, so you will end up with slower shutter speeds – which often means using a tripod and release to keep everything sharp. Landscape photographers also tend to keep the ISO low to minimise noise, and this is also important for garden photographers.

2) Portrait focussing


At the other end of the scale, you could blur out the background of a particularly nice specimen while keeping it pin sharp. This ensures there are the minimum of distractions to take the viewer's attention away from the flower. Open up the aperture (how far will depend on your lens and distance from the subject) and carefully focus on the subject, using manual focus or carefully setting the focus points.

Watch out for overexposure on a sunny day, as a wide aperture means much more light will be hitting the sensor. Portrait photography is all about capturing the personality and character of a subject, and plant and flower work should be the same.

Don't forget that gardeners can make for interesting subjects, too. You don't even need to include their face: close ups or soil-covered hands carefully planting or pruning can make for very evocative images.

3) Think like a food photographer


There are more similarities than you'd think between the two genres. Food photographers tend to only shoot very healthy looking and fresh food, and garden shooters also go for the best specimens.

Food photographers also sometimes spray a bit of water on food to make it look fresher, and early morning dew can also really lift your flower photography. Furthermore, food is often photographed in situ, and you can apply this thinking to garden work – attractive garden buildings, visually interesting tools and even other blurred-out gardeners working in the background can all add to the atmosphere.

If you are photographing berries and fruit, the links with food photography become even stronger. Try putting them in a nice bowl on a rustic table, for instance.

4) Work the colours like a fashion photographer


The theory of colours – how they work with and against each other – is crucially important in garden photography. While you don't need a PhD in it, a basic grasp of the colour wheel can help you generate more pleasing images.

Adobe has put together a useful free guide to colour here, so think about the implications of what colours are you are presented with the next time you are in the garden. Fashion and portrait photographers are also very tuned into colours, so the worlds of gardens and glossy magazines might not be as far apart as you think!

Geoff Harris

I am a journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill and Steve McCurry. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time. In addition I write about well being/personal development and antiques collecting for a range of other titles, including BlueWings, the in-flight magazine of Finn Air.

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