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Top Garden Photography Tips From A Photography Pro

We speak to Sarah Howard from Image Seen to get her top tips for photographing gardens.

|  Landscape and Travel
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Image by Sarah Howard

Gardens are a very popular subject for photography at this time of year, with all the flowers in full bloom and everything in its prime. Whether you're heading for formal gardens at your local park or manor house, or just want to grab some shots of your own pride and joy, these tips should help you achieve the shots you want. 

To compile the top tips for you, we spoke to Sarah Howard who runs workshops photographing a wide variety of subjects including landscapes and gardens through her company Image Seen. With her years of expertise, Sarah is the perfect person to get some advice from on the subject.

 

When to visit?

To get the widest spectrum of possible views and the best of all the blooms in the garden, multiple visits are essential, says Sarah. The more you know a location, the more you'll know where to head to get the best shots and you'll also learn the best times of day to photograph various parts of the gardens. Not only this, but you'll want to back in different seasons, as spectacular images can be captured of bare trees in winter, new bulbs in the spring and orange colours as the leaves fall off the trees in autumn. 

 

What about the weather?

"You might be surprised to hear that bright sunlight is not always the best kind of light to shoot images, as it can be too harsh. Ideally, you want an overcast but still bright day, so that the light is diffused, but details are still emphasised," suggests Sarah. "Photographing in the early morning and late afternoon will give you softer light that is more complimentary rather than the harsh sun of midday. Early morning is a particularly special time with its stillness and quality of light. There is also a chance of dew on petals which can look very effective."

Wind can also be a bugbear when trying to photography plants that sway - a wind speed of under 6mph is the best and make sure you use a shutter speed of at least 1/500 second to try and avoid movement in plants, unless of course the blurred swaying effect is something you're trying to achieve. 

 

What kit do I need?

Here's a list of suggested kit that Sarah thinks will be useful:

  • Lenses – for general garden views a wide angle and a medium telephoto zoom (up to 200mm) are good choices (an all encompassing 28-300 or similar often doesn’t allow for close enough focusing and looses sharpness). For close up work, opt for a macro of around 105mm or 200mm
  • A tripod that allows low-level shooting - to keep the camera steady and aid with composition. It also slows you down!
  • For close up work, a reflector can be useful for filling in shadow areas on a sunny day - tin foil wrapped over some card with suffice! (A gold reflector is useful for warming up foliage if the light is too cold)
  • A kneeling mat can be useful for lower shots. You may also want to consider a right angle viewfinder.
  • A remote/cable release
  • Polariser (to take reflections off ponds and water features)
  • Neutral density graduated filters to help balance the exposure between sky and land
  • Hot shoe spirit level (or you can use your cameras gridlines or virtual horizon functions)
  • A loupe – this is useful in that it allows you to see the image on your LCD screen clearly in playback mode on a sunny day.
  • A note book and pen - useful for making a note of locations or plant species.

 

Tips and tricks to get the best images from the day

When photographing in a garden there are a few hard rules that you can adhere to in order to get stunning images. Evey garden has a theme, so shooting wide angle shots to capture its character is always good and this combined with close-up shots of the beautiful flowers will give an overall feel for the garden, says Sarah.

Cutting the sky out of your images as much as possible and possible using a high viewpoint to look down on gardens is a good way to include the vast swathes of colour. 

Be picky with what you photograph, too, as Sarah advises: "Only photograph really perfect flowers. Look out for damaged petals and watermarks. With the wider landscape images, look for lead in lines such as paths or hedges to draw the eye in. Archways can be used to the same effect, taking the viewer on a journey through the garden. When taking a close up shot, keep it simple.

Adjusting your composition slightly, by moving just a fraction, can result in a completely different background which may be less distracting/more complimentary to your subject. Remember that you don’t necessarily have to capture the entire flower and perhaps most importantly, before pressing your shutter check all around the edge of the viewfinder and ensure everything in the frame plays a part in the image."

Flowers are very colourful and this can be used to your advantage when photographing gardens. Shoot a block of one colour for impact. But you should also remember when shooting lots of different colours in one shot that bold colours will draw the eye and this can have an adverse effect on the image if it's not used effectively.

You should also bear in mind the depth of field that you are using, as Sarah explains. "Try using a wide aperture to blur the background and concentrate the eye on the subject. Also, look to isolate a particular flower that catches your eye. 

A smaller aperture, e.g. f/11, will be more suitable for the wider landscape views to ensure that you get everything sharp. When photographing with a macro lens, depth of field becomes critical; a smaller aperture is often necessary." 

 

Learn More

If you are interested in improving your garden photography even further, Image Seen are running a 1-day workshop at Blenheim Palace on various dates throughout June, July and August. 

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Comments


JJGEE 15 7.8k 18 England
25 May 2016 6:36AM

Quote:Only photograph really perfect flowers.

However, damaged flowers or those that are passed their best can also make for good shots ( perhaps macro / close up ) so do not discard them too readily.

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