Columns, In the Garden

Tips for Photographing a Garden

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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. – As much as we might wish that May lilacs or June peonies would last forever in our gardens, they’re fleeting pleasures. One of the best ways to preserve those wonderful moments and revisit them in the future is by photographing the garden.

photo by Deborah J. Benoit The vibrant color of red flowering quince pops against a gray cement background, creating an interesting image.

If not taking pictures because they’ve been disappointing in the past, try again. Capturing quality images once required complicated cameras or special equipment. These days, most cell phones are capable of taking high-quality digital images. If a phone doesn’t, there are digital cameras available ranging from point-and-shoot models to those that allow customized settings and changeable lenses. 

What does it take to take great garden pictures?

Don’t settle for just one. Take multiple photos. Digital photographs offer you the option to take a dozen or more photos of that perfect rose. Do a quick check for framing and composition while still in the garden. Poorly focused or badly composed digital photos are easily deleted. 

photo by Deborah J. Benoit Filling the frame with a single color or texture of a plant will make close-up photos more dramatic.

Be patient. Keep an eye out for interesting images. Take a stroll through the garden, camera (or phone) in hand, and really look at everything.

Bumblebees, butterflies and more elusive visitors to the garden, such as dragonflies and hummingbirds, may photobomb your pictures and can result in some great compositions. After seeing a potential subject, stand quietly, ready to snap a picture.

Change the perspective. Take a close-up, a distance shot or a higher angle looking down on the subject or a lower one looking up. Try different viewpoints. Get closer or step back. Use the zoom feature to get up close without being close. Imagine the possibilities. 

Pay attention to the light. Just as some plants prefer morning sun to the heat of the afternoon, taking pictures in the early morning can result in better quality photos than those taken in the middle of the day. Lighting makes a big difference in how pictures come out.

photo by Deborah J. Benoit Lighting and shooting plants, such as these hop vines reaching for the sky, from different angles can make a big difference in how well photos turn out.

While bright sunlight might seem preferable, it can wash out colors or create unwelcome dark shadows in photographs. Instead, try taking pictures in early morning or early evening for better colors and less intense shadows.

An overcast or partially cloudy day with its soft, diffused light can also result in better images. In addition, taking pictures after it rains can provide the opportunity to capture the sparkle of raindrops on flowers or foliage.

The time of day and the position of the sun also will affect where shadows fall. Nothing can ruin an otherwise good picture like the photographer’s shadow unintentionally cast across its subject.

For variety, consider taking photographs facing the sun, backlighting the scene. Using a tree or building between the camera lens and the sun itself allows its light to highlight your subject without adverse glare.

Add interest by changing the composition of your photos. Place your subject off center. Use a piece of garden art as a focal point. Capture the texture of foliage highlighted by the sun across its surface.

Sometimes snapping pictures may take more than patience or creativity. Using a tripod or solid surface such as a fence post for support can help steady your camera, preventing blurry pictures.

 So, the next time you are heading out to the garden, take along a camera or phone and snap a few pictures. 

Deborah J. Benoit is a UVM Extension Master Gardener from North Adams, Mass., who is part of the Bennington County Chapter.

Deborah J. Benoit

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