How to Take Better Garden Pictures

Open Shade or Slight Overcast is the Preferred Lighting

A bright sunny day always makes the garden look great to your eyes, but unfortunately it is not the best time to take photographs. The harsh sun casts deep shadows, and your pictures end up with highlights washed out and the shadows too prominent and dark. A bright overcast day, with high cloud cover, is a better time to take pictures. Early mornings are also good, when the light is soft, and as a bonus you have dew drops to accent your flowers.

  • Follow the shade through the garden and take pictures at different times of day.
  • Use a tripod when shooting during early morning hours. You will need a longer exposure, and keeping the camera steady is essential to getting well focused pictures.
  • Avoid using the flash. It will cast harsh shadows that you are trying to avoid.
  • Leave the sky out of the composition as much as possible so the light meter doesn’t read off the sky and throw your garden into darkness.
  • Create shade by having a couple of people hold up a big white sheet, umbrella, or even wax paper to diffuse the light.
  • Use strong sunlight to play up shadows or silhouettes, especially with thin petaled flowers like poppies.
  • Tin foil can be laid on the ground to bounce light into dark shadow areas, helping to define the underside and even out the shadows.
  • Use a solid, dark object to block out backgrounds and bring the subject forward.
  • Check what will be visible or distracting in the background. Groom the beds a little, deadhead and pull out weeds and drifting leaves.

Dynamic Composition Makes a Striking Picture

Composition is an important element in achieving the exceptional photograph. Panoramic shots can be useful for record keeping, but rarely do they succeed in showing off the best of your plants. Although your eye can take in the whole field, there are usually a few stronger elements which stand out. Zero in on those, and fill the frame for a dramatic effect. Fascinating designs are abundant in plant life. Sometimes all it takes is a clever eye to focus on what we see everyday.

  • Consider what is the essential thing that attracted your interest, and crop in tightly on that.
  • Use the rule of thirds, aligning an object or flower not dead center, but 1/3 from the edge.
  • Look for natural and man-made patterns, such as repetition of seed pods or hardscaping.
  • Set up the edge of a bed or a path on a diagonal to suggest depth and lead you in to the picture.
  • Use garden sculpture as a focal point, but place it in the environment to give it context.
  • Try unusual views, such as down low on eye level with a flower, framing the view with a doorway, or climbing a ladder to see it from above.

We are proud of our gardens and, like our babies, want to show them off to others. We have all had the disappointment of bad pictures that just don’t do any justice to the feeling of being out there among the vibrantly growing plants. Focusing on the subject that most draws you in will help capture the elemental joy of gardening.



Article by Caren Catterall, creator of Gardening by the Moon Planting Guide.