Taking Colorful Photos In Your Garden :: Digital Photo Secrets

Taking Colorful Photos In Your Garden

by David Peterson 3 comments

Why travel to an exotic location for photography when you can take some of your best shots in your own backyard? Photography and gardening go together like two peas in a pod. It’s a great way to show off your hard work all while perfecting your macro and flower photography skills. But for all the fun you’ll be having, there are a few things that may surprise you about taking pictures in your garden. Here’s what you can expect.

With so many colors in your own backyard, why would you ever need to go anywhere else?
Photo By Lola Audu

First of all, when you think of gardening and photography, you almost immediately think “sunny day in the middle of summer or the beginning of spring.” After all, that’s when you’re most inclined to get out there and work in your garden. Interestingly, those days are actually the worst time to photograph your garden. The light is simply too harsh.

When you photograph a mountain, you want big shadows to give the photo a sense of drama. The shadows emphasize the ridges and make the mountain appear more.. well... mountainous. Interestingly, the same can’t be said of gardens and flowers. Shadows are enemy number one in that domain. They overpower the shot and destroy the delicate details in your subject.

The Garden Photography Rules

Here’s the shocker. When doing garden photography, cloudy days are better than sunny days. I know what you’re thinking. When is that ever the case? Well here’s why. Cloudy days disperse the sun’s light, making it more diffuse and less able to produce shadows. You get a softer kind of light that works wonders on flowers and other garden-sized things.

On an overcast day, these flowers actually appear a lot more detailed because there are virtually no shadows.

It might look gray outside, but down on the ground, your flowers are as colorful as ever. Clouds make zero difference so far as that is concerned. The key is to get the exposure correct. It’s especially important to avoid letting in too much light thereby overexposing your flowers and making them too bright.

Your camera’s automatic flower mode or macro mode can help, but I find it’s always better to go with manual settings. If you want more color, it’s generally best to pick a faster shutter speed, usually one or two stops faster than what you’d normally expect. The rest of your photo may appear darker, but the color from your flowers will definitely pop.

How else can you change it up?

There are a variety of ways. There are so many that I could go on for days. But here are some of my favorites.

I like to take some of my taller flowers / plants, and turn them into gorgeous backlit silhouettes. Just get down on the ground and point your camera up towards the plants. Try to align the sun with the plant in an interesting way. This particular shot makes a really cool effect when you combine it with dandelions blowing in the wind. The dandelion amplifies the sun’s light, creating a kind of halo.

The sunrise and dandelions. What more could you ask for?

You might not always be able to get down low enough for this kind of shot. In that case, it’s helpful to have a wideangle lens so you can get really really close to the flower you’re going to shoot. You don’t actually need to be behind the camera at all. Just zoom out, focus, and take the shot. So what if it isn’t framed perfectly. That’s what Photoshop Elements is for.

Before I forget, you really do need to use a fast shutter speed when photographing silhouettes of anything. I’m usually somewhere in the 1/250s to 1/500s range for this particular setup.

Bring your own rain

Don’t you just love how the garden looks after a rain storm? You don’t have to wait for the rain to make it happen. You can do it all with a spray mister. Just gently cover your flowers with a fine mist, allow it to settle, and snap away. This effect looks its best when you’ve got out your macro lens. You can see the little water droplets up close and personal.

If you’re a bit sheepish, don’t worry. There’s nothing wrong with faking it when you’re in your own backyard. Oftentimes, the best pictures aren’t taken. They’re made.

Is there anything you do differently when you take pictures in the garden? I’d love to hear about it. Just leave me a comment below.

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  1. Theressa Lyne says:

    I love taking pictures of flowers. Thanks David for the good info. Just a question, how do you get the black background in your last photo of the red rose?

    • David Peterson says:

      Hi Theressa,

      Quite easily actually - placed some black card behind the flower before photographing!


  2. Marnie Rogers says:

    I can't get down to ground level any more to focus my shots but have got amazing surprise results from putting my camera on the ground below the subject then tilting it up and taking the photo. It can also create the most amazing optical illusions. I have tiny little people standing underneath enormous mushrooms and flowers that have grown so tall they are above roof height. Not really "professional" but so much fun.

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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.