How to take good garden photos

Article and photos by Will Sites

Gardening is a little bit like fishing. Stories of the catfish that got away and boasts of softball-size tomatoes tend to get a little larger as the summer sun lowers into fall. We can’t always get photographic evidence of elusive aquatic monsters, but we can document the fruits of our home gardens. I enjoy taking photos of my vegetables and flowers, mainly because I’m amazed by the power of Mother Nature’s beauty. Enough water, a little fertilizer, and some late-evening tender care goes a long way. Fighting flying pests, furry night diggers, and drought adds to the drama. From planning, to tilling, to planting and harvest, I like to look back at my garden photos and say, “Wow!”

A few tips about photographing gardens. You can use a phone or a 35mm. Each have limitations. The biggest one is lighting. Phones are pretty good, but can’t deal with bad lighting or focusing issues. Some advice:

*Photograph in the mid-morning or afternoon. Overhead sunlight casts bad shadows and is generally harsh light. Overcast days are excellent for garden photography, as long as it’s not too dark.

*Calm days are best. Flowers and plants tend to sway in the wind. This can make for unfocused photos.

*Make sure your background is good. Watch for cars, trash cans, trailers, etc. A dark background is best for plants.

*Water your garden or take photos after it rains. The dark soils makes the green plants looks bold. Look for contrast in your photos.

*Plant flowers in different colors. Mix it up.

*Plant gardens with tallest plants (corn, sunflower) on one side and shorter plants elsewhere. This allows for proper sunlight distribution and easier photography.

*Look for perspective. I photograph from the corners or from above and below. Put the camera underneath plants and shoot towards the sky (puffy white clouds are cool).

*Take a lot of photos and see what works. Experiment. Have fun!

Take a photo before anything grows. It’s fun to watch the garden transform. (Photo by Will Sites)
Look for perspective when shooting a whole garden photo. Look how the “V” tends to “grow” into the top of the photo – just like my Silver Queen corn! Stand in a corner and use the best background possible. Dark backgrounds provide contrast. (Photo by Will Sites)
I water before taking garden photos. The dark soil adds contrast and generally makes the garden look healthy. Raise the camera above the plants and get close. Try to have a dark background and/or make sure the background is clear of clutter, cars, etc. Clean backgrounds make for clean photos. (Photo by Will Sites)
A good rule of photography is to get close. And then get closer. Fill the frame. (Photo by Will Sites)
Find a different perspective by shooting directly above your plants. Top-down photos also aid in design, such as filling in holes or mixing colors. (Photo by Will Sites)
Try a lower view of tall flowers and get a different background, such as the sky or trees. (Photo by Will Sites)
Shoot from underneath a flower to get a cool background. (Photo by Will Sites)
A different perspective works well with tall, skinny plants. (Photo by Will Sites)
Getting a good photo of most hanging vegetables demands good lighting. I always take photos in morning or afternoon, when the sun is lower and illuminating the hanging produce. Photos taken when the sun is high will result in shadows on the produce. Lighting is everything. (Photo by Will Sites)
Use afternoon or morning lighting to get the best shots. I like to use water – such as the sprinkler in this photo – to give a good environmental taste. Water and gardens go together. (Photo by Will Sites)
By putting the camera (in this case a GoPro Hero 8) on the ground in front of a 10-inch ginger plant, the small plant gains prominence among tall corn and sunflower plants. The sprinkler adds to the emotion of gardening, where water is the essence of life. (Photo by Will Sites)
Use Mother Nature’s colors to make your garden photos pop. (Photo by Will Sites)
Butterflies bring joy to gardeners, but they are very difficult to photograph. Best advice: Stand still in the middle of flowers where butterflies are visiting. Be ready to take the photo – quickly! Take a lot. Phones work well, but make sure to have good lighting. Wait for the butterfly to spread its wings, which they do every few seconds. Be patient. (Photo by Will Sites/Canon Rebel XT 6, Canon 200mm white lens, 100 ASA)
Butterflies come and go quickly. Be ready. (Photo by Will Sites, Canon 200mm lens)

About The Clarion News

Campus and community news produced by journalism students at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.
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