I have been photographing gardens for the National Garden Scheme for the past two years and have picked up a few good tips to use when capturing gardens, large or small.
Here are my top ten photography tips:
1. Walk around the garden with the owner / gardener to hear about the story of the garden and discover the meaningful or special parts of the garden from their perspective. Look out for hidden gems. What feelings are evoked on first sight? Your aim is to tell the story of the garden so pay attention to what is important to the owner or gardener.
2. Make the best use of the available light. Early mornings or late afternoons can produce soft golden sunlight and side lighting to give shadows and depth to the scene. This is not always possible so you need to understand how to work with the available light. Strong midday sun can bleach out colours and create harsh, unflattering shadows so look for shaded areas to capture if possible, or use a diffuser to soften the light. However garden statuary can look dramatic in harsh light.
3. Include different viewpoints, don't always capture images at eye level. Crouch low, climb high, take wide vistas and close up details. Shoot through closer plants to add a soft colourful frame to the shot.
4. Take care to look around the frame, it's very easy to miss spotting the pink watering can or the untidy pile of garden clippings in the background. Check for things that should not be in the frame before you press the shutter release, nobody wants to see their washing in the background.
5. Remember the rules of composition. Make sure you have some 'safe' photos using these rules before being more adventurous. Rule of thirds, odd numbers and leading lines are always good ones to develop an eye for.
6. Shoot in RAW if possible. This will allow details to be recovered from areas that maybe too dark or bright when you process the images later.
7. Check the weather forecast before visiting the garden. If it's likely to rain or be very windy it might be best to postpone. If you have no choice then for rain bring along a friend who can hold an umbrella over you, use a rain protection cover on your camera, together with a lens hood to help keen raindrops off the front of the lens. If it is windy you will need to shoot with a fast shutter speed to freeze the movement otherwise your flowers and plants will be blurred. Using AI Servo focusing (Canon) can help keep the subject in focus.
8. Use a tripod to help with getting the sharpest images, especially if you need to slow the shutter speed down if light levels are low.
9. Handy equipment to have with you is
a zoom lens (eg 18 - 135mm)
a fixed 50mm fast lens
macro lens or extension tube (to get closer)
mini lights such as a Lumimuse mini LED to backlight small flowers (eg snowdrops)
a reflector / diffuser
a kneeling pad / plastic sheet / large bag (to get down low)
10. Things to consider
don’t include too much - keep it simple
try to isolate your subject
look for complementary colours
minimise the sky
get level with your subject
use backlight (adds romance)
One of the most important things is to enjoy your surroundings so make the most of your garden visit and have fun.