Taking Better Garden Photos

Many gardeners like to take pictures of their gardens, partly to keep records of how things look and partly out of the parent-like pride people rightly feel about their gardens. Getting good garden shots is not easy–as I have certainly discovered while keeping this blog. Some photos look washed out, some too bright, sometimes the main subject looks great, but there is that annoying branch or house in the background.

Donna Krischan, a professional garden photographer from Big Bend, Wis., offered tips to gardeners at the Midwest Regional Master Gardener Conference last week. Donna is a regular contributor to Northern Gardener, and one of my go-to photogs that I contact when we need specific images. There isn’t room here to go through all of her suggestions. If you want to go deeper into photography, Donna occasionally teaches courses on the topic. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum also offers periodic garden photography courses, usually taught by Two Harbors-based John Gregor. Here are my top three tips from Donna:

  • Move in close. Simpler images have more power and nothing is more simple or powerful than the amazing forms and colors of flowers. Think Georgia O’Keeffe.
  • Focus on the stamens. Where do you focus when you take shots of people? Most people focus on the eyes. Stamens are the eyes of the flower. If you can get those in focus, your subject will look its best.
  • When shooting in sun, force the flash to fire. Bright sun is tough to shoot in, and for that reason, I try to take my garden shots at sunset or early evening. (Many photographers swear that dawn is the best time to shoot, but I’m not that much of a morning person.) If you must shoot in bright sun, force your camera’s flash to fire. This will light your main subject and give more details to your shots

I was so excited after Donna’s talk that I returned to Boerner Botanical Gardens, which we’d toured the previous day, to try out some of her techniques. The photos above are from that shoot, and I think they turned out pretty good. Thanks, Donna!

[Photos from top left, a bee foraging (appropriately) on bee balm (Monarda); my Georgia O’Keeffe impression with a Memorial Day™ rose; and Charmaine daylily, which I used to practice focusing on the stamens, which is tougher than you’d imagine.]

3 Replies to “Taking Better Garden Photos”

  1. Thank you, Mary, for the wonderful coverage of the 2008 Midwest Regional Master Gardener Conference held in Milwaukee, WI. The committee that planned this event worked over two years to create an educational and fun event. I’m so very pleased you found it so. You can view pictures of the event at my photo web site: http://sharingmemories.myphotoalbum.com

    Regards,
    Marcia

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