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It’s Prime Time For Garden Photography 101

The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the fertile master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, Brian Cruey.

Every season/week/day in the garden brings its own discoveries and joys. But let’s face it, in terms of what most of us consider “prime time” in the garden, these few weeks at the beginning of July are really what it’s all about. Things are looking good out there.

Photographing the beauty of your garden is a great way to not only journal your garden’s year-to-year progress but it’s also a joy and art all its own. Of course, in this social media, take-a-picture-of-my-plate, selfie, #nofilter culture we live in, taking good photos has become not just an obsession, but a means of communication.

Disclosure: I am by no means a professional photographer. However, as part of my job here at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, I take a lot of photos and there are a few tricks that I’ve learned that really help me get the right shot.

Look at what you are photographing. I know, this sounds like a crazy step but it’s worth taking a good hard look at what you’re going to photograph before you start clicking. Are there wilted petals on the flower? Ants on that peony that you don’t want in your shot? An orange Home Depot bucket in the background that will distract from your photo? We often see things in a photograph that we don’t see before we take the picture because we look at it through the lens first instead of a critical eye.

Take lots and lots of photos of the same thing. I’m assuming that, for the most part, the majority of people have digital cameras (or phones) these days. I’m not quite sure how many photos could fit on the SD card inside of mine, but I’m guessing it’s around a zillion. With that in mind, I take a ton of photos of whatever it is I’m photographing. I try different angles, different depths of field, different framing options and just click away. Honestly, you should be coming in with a few hundred photographs, not a few dozen. I’ve never once regretted taking too many photos, but I often wish I had taken more.

Shoot in the right light. High noon might be the perfect time for a shoot-out but it isn’t the best time for a shoot. (I know – that was terrible.) Early morning, just as the sun is coming up, is the perfect time to go out and shoot the garden. It’s also a great time to sleep, which is usually what I’m doing. A close second is the light of late afternoon, just before the sun starts to set. If you do need to shoot mid-day, do it when it’s overcast or there are passing clouds. Direct, hard light doesn’t make for great photos.

Get close. I find the closer I get when photographing flowers, the better they look. Photos allow us to study details up close, and in so many plants, that’s where a lot of the beauty truly lies. Don’t be afraid to get intimate with your subject.

Read the manual and practice. How many of us actually know what our camera can really do? Reading the manual will teach you all kinds of tricks and shortcuts that can improve your skills immensely just by knowing how to use the technology. Once you have the basics down, practice, practice, practice. It won’t take you long to know instinctively what makes a good photo and how to best use your device.

If you have any photos that you are particularly proud of, or capture a great moment this summer, bring it to the Berkshire Botanical “Grow Show” on August 9 and enter it in our photography section. What more appropriate place could there be to display not just your horticultural accomplishments, but your artistic ones as well?

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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/24/14 at 06:20 PM • Permalink