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How To Photograph Fungi

How To Photograph Fungi - Why not have a go at photographing mushrooms?

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Category : Flowers and Plants
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Words by Emma Kay.

mushroom

Gear

  • A macro lens is handy
  • Take a waterproof sheet or something to kneel on as the floor will be cold and damp
  • Low level tripod
  • Small reflector - bounce light under the mushroom
  • Polarising filter, such as the Samsung C-PL Filter - reduce the shine from the top of the mushrooms so it's not over-exposed.

Where to find them

So, where do you find mushrooms? They can grow everywhere and anywhere, as long as it is damp. They often grow on rotting trees and you'll stand a good chance of finding them in forests, or somewhere that is permanently damp. Damp is a key feature for mushroom life. Look on the forest floor, especially around fallen trees.

Time of day

Early morning's the best time to find good samples of mushrooms to photograph as they'll be fresh fruiting bodies from the night before which won't have got trampled on or eaten.

It's dark

As forests can be quite dank and dark at time but don't use your camera's built in flash as it's too direct. Instead, position your off-camera flash so the bounce back doesn't burn out your image. You could try back lighting the mushroom to give it an almost halo of light around the top. You can achieve this look by simply lighting it with a torch. It works particularly well on green foliage that's thrown out of focus.

Tidy the area

You'll probably find that some of the twigs and leaves on the forest floor don't work with your composition so you'll have to move them out of shot. You should still do this even if you're using a wider aperture to throw the background out of focus as dark twigs or bright leaves can still be distracting even if they're blurred. This doesn't mean you have to pull them out of the ground or snap them off a branch as you can simply hold them back out of place until you've taken your shot. You may also want to softly brush the mud and dirt of the top of the mushroom but if you like the 'natural' look, feel free to leave the scene alone.

How to shoot them

Try to capture mushrooms in a group, as a variety of sizes will add interest of the piece. Odd groups are more pleasing to the eye than pairs but if you have one particular good specimen, don't overlook shooting it standing on its own.

Often, white mushrooms look great when contrasted with moss, or leaves on the floor, to add colour and interest to the shot. Blurring the background makes the mushroom the key focus, while the extra elements are used to add colour to compliment the shot.

Once you've got your shots of the top of the mushroom, take a look under it. Here, you'll find interesting textures and colour and you'll also be able to exaggerate the height of the mushroom you're photographing working from this height. Make sure you light the underbelly by directing light into the scene with a reflector and remember to use a wide aperture so your mushroom is the centre of attention. Do check your shot though as wider apertures could leave parts of the mushroom out of focus when working at such small distances.

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