Why Take Garden Photos?
Taking pictures of your flower and vegetable gardens can help you keep records of what you grew and where you grew it. Many gardeners practice some form of crop rotation, being especially careful not to plant the same vegetables in the same location year after year. A photo or two can be a big help in keeping track of where you planted your tomatoes the previous season. Digital photos are especially helpful, since you can store them on your computer, label them, and click on the photo’s “properties” to see exactly when the photo was taken. A photo might also be a good reminder next year if you planted some things too close together this year.
ID that Bug or Disease
The old cliche that a picture is worth a thousand words is certainly true when it comes to identifying pests, damage from pests, or disease symptoms in the garden. One or two good photos can be compared to photos online to identify the pest or disease.
Send Photos to Friends
Serious gardeners enjoy sharing their garden experiences with their gardening friends and extended family. Today’s digital technology makes it easy to capture the wonder and beauty of your garden and email or text it to a special friend.
Garden Photographs as Art
Photos help us preserve the beauty of our gardens. Roses will fade, sunflowers will wither, and the visiting monarch butterfly will fly away… but great photos from the garden can last a lifetime. Digital photography enables us to take lots of pictures, edit and crop them, and print them on our computers or have them printed by professionals… at a fraction of the cost than we used to spend when all cameras had film!
Garden Photographs as Gifts
A great photo from your garden or from a friend’s garden can make a wonderful gift, too. Online companies can help you turn a photo into a wonderful print for framing, or your shot can be used to decorate a tee shirt or a coffee mug. With a little help from online companies, a collection of garden photos can be used to make a very personalized calendar. Personal computer software also makes it possible for you to make your own greeting cards from garden photos.
Digital Slide Shows
If you’ve had the opportunity to visit one of the great public gardens in the USA, you probably took a lot of pictures. You can post them on one of the photo-sharing websites and invite others to see them, or you can make your own digital slide show by loading the images onto your personal computer, tablet, or onto a digital picture frame. With additional equipment, like Apple TV, you can play the slide show through your TV.
How to Take Better Garden Photos
By far, the two most convenient types of cameras for garden photography are compact digital cameras and smartphone cameras. They’re easy to have on hand for that spontaneous opportunity, and you can take multiple shots without worrying about wasting film. Digital photos are also relatively easy to edit and crop, and they’re very easy – and affordable – to share.
If you have a digital camera with interchangeable lenses, you can be even more creative and can expand your garden photo opportunities considerably. Telephoto lenses allow you to get close-up photos of birds and bees without scaring them away. And, telephoto lenses will allow you to narrow the depth of field of your photograph so that a single bloom or piece of fruit will more clearly be highlighted.
By far, composition is the most important consideration when taking a photograph for any artistic use. Composition – the design of your photo – determines how the subject is framed and how other elements can be reduced or eliminated to avoid any distraction. Many of us can improve the composition of our photos by merely moving in closer to the central subject.
With a little practice, you can learn to compose interesting photos by focusing on smaller elements or interesting patterns that you may have overlooked in the past. Many people claim that a developing interest in photography has helped them see the world in different ways.
As mentioned above, good photo composition enables us to eliminate distractions that would otherwise make a photo less attractive. If the objective is to highlight the beauty of a single rose bloom, try to avoid including any foliage that might have black spots or insect damage that could distract from the beauty of the bloom.
Similarly, background buildings, tools, and people can distract from the intended focus of your photo.
All photographers become more aware of light, and its effect on their photos, as they develop their skills. Almost all garden photos are taken outdoors, with natural light as the source. Early morning and early evening light tends to be a little warmer and softer, while a bright afternoon sun might be a little harsh. But, any light condition can be used to make interesting photos, so long as you are aware of the effect of the light on your subject.
With experience, photographers see what the camera sees… good shadows or bad shadows, depending on the desired effect. Backlighting a photo, where the subject is between you and light source, can also create dramatic and lovely photos. And, certain lighting conditions can allow you to photograph a garden element as a silhouette, purposefully focusing on the shape rather than color or depth of the subject.
Depth of Field
Depth of field is simply how much of the photograph is sharply focused, and it is determined by the size of the aperture (or opening) of the lens. Most automatic cameras will strive for as much depth as possible; but, you can override the camera’s settings to reduce the depth of field in order to create more artistic results. While your eyes may be focused on a single bloom, remember that the camera may very well see all of the surrounding foliage as equally important. Get to know your camera’s settings and options to create more interesting photos.
While slightly blurry or “soft” images may be very artistic (especially when photographing people), most photographers usually strive for well focused central subjects. Great in-focus shots are achieved by having as fast a shutter speed as possible, and holding the camera still when shooting. If possible, it will help to have something to lean on, or against, to reduce your body’s movement when pressing the shutter. Professionals will often use tripods or other tools to help keep the camera steady while shooting.
Instead of pressing or “punching” the shoot button, hold the button down for a second or two, focus on the subject, and then release the button. Your smartphone photos will be sharper and perhaps better composed as well.
Where to Get Help to Become an Even Better Photographer
Of course you can take online courses, or enroll in an adult education program. You may be motivated to subscribe to a photo magazine for a while to learn more about techniques and equipment. A simple Google search on “photographing your garden” will lead to hundreds of suggestions for books or articles to read online.
If you are interested in buying a book or two to add to your library, Photographing Your Garden by David Bjurstrom is a beautifully written and lavishly illustrated book that will help you become a better garden photographer.
Garden photography, like gardening itself, is a wonderful lifelong journey, with lessons and surprises, frustrations and delights, and opportunities to learn and improve. Enjoy the journey.