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Improve your garden photography

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Clive Nichols Clive Nichols | 08:02 UK time, Friday, 29 October 2010

I photographed this maple with a macro lens against a green lawn

Now is the time to get some great autumnal photos of leaves, such as this maple which I photographed with a macro lens against a green lawn (click on the image for a larger version)

Capturing the ephemeral beauty of your garden on camera is hugely satisfying, requiring a combination of good timing, good luck and a lot of patience. It's a skill which takes a lifetime to perfect - so to get you started leading professional garden photographer Clive Nichols shares some of his top tips.

Keep it simple

Keep equipment simple - try to avoid having a camera bag full of different cameras, lenses and filters. One camera and a couple of different lenses - say a zoom lens and a wide-angle lens, should be enough to capture garden scenes. Use a macro lens if you want to go in close on a flower or leaf.

When to shoot

Shoot in the early morning and late afternoon on sunny days for better light. Brilliant midday light is too harsh and will wash out colours as well as burning out highlights and turning shadows into inky black pools with no detail. During the day I usually prefer to shoot in cloudy, overcast conditions - the light is softer, less contrasty and therefore often more flattering to garden subjects.

 

I used a macro lens to photograph this gorgeous blue hydrangea

I used a macro lens to photograph this gorgeous blue hydrangea

Wind

Choose days when there is little or no wind to reduce subject movement. I am constantly checking the weather forecast and when the wind speeds drop below 5mph I will go out into the garden. With little or no wind subject movement is less of a problem and so your chances of getting pin-sharp images with good depth of field are enhanced. If you are shooting on a windy day and you want to render a plant sharp, you need to use a fast shutter speed of around 1/500 second or faster, otherwise the plant will be recorded as a blur.

Use a tripod

I always use a tripod whenever I can - it stops the camera from shaking during exposures and also slows you down, helping you to compost your image with greater care.

Film or digital?

Most of us have converted to digital now, but if you are still using film, try using a slow transparency film such as 50 or 100 ISO -

This autumn leaf is set off by the out of focus background of other leaves on the tree

This autumn leaf is set off by the out of focus background of other leaves on the tree

colour rendition will be better than faster films and the image will be less grainy. If you like the grainy effect, then use a faster film with an ISO of 400 or greater. If using a Digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera, use your camera's slowest ISO setting - 50 or 100. This will produce less digital 'noise' in the final image and give you the best image quality.

Composition

Rather than just taking loads and loads of photographs, spend more time on each subject and concentrate on one or two good compositions of a single subject. if you are shooging a flower close-up, check all around the viewfinder for any distracting details such as plant labels, greenfly or damaged petals, particularly in the background. Although these can sometimes be removed after the event in Photoshop, it is better to get the shot right in camera. Try to fill the frame with the subject that has caught your imagination.

Go with your emotions

Try to photograph subjects that you feel some emotional response from - an aquilegia dripping with early morning dew; a rose dusted with frost; the more beauty you feel for the subject the better the picture you will take.

Early morning is the best time to capture dramatic garden scenes like this

Early morning is the best time to capture dramatic garden scenes like this

Now it's your turn...

Now you've got some tips, it's time to have a go yourself. There are hundreds of fantastic plants and gardens photos on Gardeners' World Flickr Group to inspire you - do add your photos if you haven't already.

And if you manage to capture the image of your dreams, there's still time to enter the International Garden Photographer of the Year. Judges include Clive Nichols and fellow garden photographer Andrew Lawson. If you need some extra inspiration, last year's entries are on display at Wakehurst Place in West Sussex until 16 January 2011.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    The sharp image and blurred background is called bokeh, what is the secret?

  • Comment number 2.

    This is great! As I love photography, I always love to travel and capture scenes and events as I see them. That's why I'm looking for a good quality of camera that can amazingly capture scenes. I love to read reviews and articles about cameras and photography tips. Your tips are really useful for photographers. Thanks for the post. [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 3.

    I've been using my canon 450D in my garden for the past few months. I've goot a nice mixture of lenses from the standard 18-55mm lens a 70-300 and a prime 50mm.

    I'll often use my prime lens for overall garden shots as its works really well in low light. mainly down to its low apeture. I'll use my zoom for wildlife shots but its not a proper canon lens so i'm never that happy with it.

    We've just had a contemporary garden room put in our garden and my camera is never out of there now it just sits happily on its tripod read to caputre its next shot.

    I cant beleive that people still use film over digital. I know that some arty people will use film if they have really expensive old SLR's but Digital is now so advance.

    I love the early morning scene photo. :)

 

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