Six Tips for Good Garden Photography

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Gardens are natural subjects for photography: the complex beauty created by the gardener, working closely with Mother Nature, can be high art.

From Good Garden Photography - PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop e-book series by photographer Saxon Holt

Hunting for photos is one of the great joys of garden photography, involving the distillation of a grand garden experience down to images that tell a story of how the garden makes you, the photographer, feel. When your photos tell stories, when they reveal not just the garden but what you have to say about it, they are “good” photos.

A “good” photo is not simply one that is technically superior. Indeed, in these days of digital manipulation with infinite styles and special effects, it can be hard to tell when a photo is purposefully blurry, or over saturated, or intentionally edgy.

Many techniques can help enhance your vision, but a good photo starts with being conscious that you are taking a picture, capturing a single moment. Squeeze the shutter when you see the elements come together in your viewfinder, don’t just grab a snapshot, capture a moment. Use some basic concepts about art and composition in that process.

In Good Garden Photography, the first book in the PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop, I cover six fundamental concepts that go into every “good” photo. It’s not rocket science - its about beauty.

Gardens are natural subjects for photography: the complex beauty created by the gardener, working closely with Mother Nature, can be high art. As a photographer, you are in a special position to capture the fleeting times when a garden speaks to you, knowing the moment will pass. Seeing the beauty is instinctive, taking photo requires some concentration.

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Begin to compose your picture by thinking of your camera viewfinder as a frame.

Here is a summary of ideas to keep in mind, the six chapters form the book:

  1. Composition 101: Fill the Frame. Begin by thinking of your camera viewfinder as a frame, wherein you compose your picture. The core objective of any good photo is to fill the entire frame with purpose. Do not waste space with elements that don’t contribute to your story. Use the camera viewfinder (or your crop tool later) and fill the frame.
  2. Composition and Balance. Once we establish the basic concept of filling the frame, we need a few basic ideas of how to compose within it. The “rule of thirds” will underpin many ways to achieve a good weight and balance in the shapes and spaces we see, as we use colors, textures, lines, and focal points to make photos interesting.
  3. Finding the Light. Understanding light is key to getting good photos. Light fundamentally affects color renditions in garden photography. Stay away from hot, contrasty midday light - a camera can not see the full range of highlights to shadow that the eye can see.
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    A good garden photo should invite the viewer to look closer, provoking a sense of what special interpretation the photographer sees.
  5. Garden Appreciation. A good garden photo has a purpose. Learn to appreciate what makes a garden work. The beauty you see is not an accident; don’t let your photos be accidental.
  6. Style: Provocation and Intrigue. A good garden photo should invite the viewer to look closer, provoking a sense of what special interpretation the photographer sees. This can be done with unexpected elements, intriguing composition, or whimsy as you develop your own style.
  7. Tell your Story. A good photo invites a story; it is not a mere grab shot. How does the garden make you, the photographer, feel? Capture the essence of what you see in the garden. Be conscious.

If you are preparing an image for a photo contest choose one that says something special about your own vision, not just the pretty photo that documents a beautiful garden. Be sure to to tell your audience what you saw, not what everyone could see.

If you’re thinking about going out to take an award winning photo--go do it. No photo is made by reading about it. Getting that good photo begins with going out with a camera. Find some soft light. Have fun!

Do you have great garden photos you'd like to share? Then enter our photo contest. Top prize is a $250 gift certificate and possible inclusion in our catalog. Enter now.


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Good Garden Photography - The first ebook in PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop series by Saxon Holt is available as pdf download for any device at PhotoBotanic.com for $9.95. The coupon code "hcg10” will give High Country Garden customers a 10% discount on any ebook in the series.

© All articles are copyrighted by High Country Gardens. Republishing an entire High Country Gardens blog post or article is prohibited without written permission. Please feel free to share a short excerpt with a link back to the article on social media websites, such as Facebook and Pinterest.

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