Gardens have been a popular subject for photographers for centuries, and for good reason. There’s something about the natural beauty and tranquillity of a garden that makes it an ideal subject for capturing with a camera. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner, exploring gardens through your lens can be a rewarding experience that can lead to stunning images.
When it comes to photographing gardens, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you get the most out of your shots. Here are some of the things to keep in mind when exploring gardens through your lens.
Firstly, it’s important to pay attention to the lighting. Depending on the time of day and the weather, the light in a garden can vary dramatically. For example, early morning or late afternoon light can create beautiful, warm tones that can add depth and dimension to your images. On the other hand, bright midday light can be harsh and unforgiving, casting harsh shadows and making it difficult to capture detail in the highlights and shadows.
To make the most of the lighting, try to plan your visit to the garden for a time when the light is soft and flattering. If you’re not sure when that is, you can always do a bit of research beforehand to find out the best times of day to photograph the garden you’re visiting.
Once you’re in the garden, it’s time to start exploring. Take some time to walk around and get a feel for the space. Look for interesting compositions and angles that will help you create unique and dynamic images.
One approach that can be particularly effective when photographing gardens is to look for contrasts. For example, you might look for a patch of brightly colored flowers set against a backdrop of lush green foliage. Or you might try to capture the contrast between the sharp lines of a stone wall and the soft curves of a flower bed.
Depth of field
Another thing to keep in mind when exploring gardens through your lens is the importance of depth of field. By using a shallow depth of field, you can create images with a beautiful, dreamy quality that draws the viewer’s eye to a specific point in the frame.
To achieve a shallow depth of field, you’ll need to use a wide aperture (such as f/2.8 or f/4) and focus on a specific point in the frame. This will cause the background to blur, creating a sense of depth and dimension in the image.
Of course, not all images need to have a shallow depth of field. Depending on the subject and the composition, you may want to use a smaller aperture to create a sharper, more detailed image.
When it comes to composition, there are a few key principles to keep in mind. One is the rule of thirds, which suggests that you should divide the frame into thirds both horizontally and vertically, and place your subject at one of the intersections.
Another important principle is balance. When composing your shot, try to create a sense of balance and harmony between the various elements in the frame. For example, you might balance a large, colorful flower with a smaller, more subtle one, or balance a foreground element with a background element.
Patience and persistence
Don’t forget about the importance of patience and persistence. Gardens can be unpredictable and ever-changing, so it may take some time and experimentation to capture the perfect shot. But with a bit of patience and persistence, you can create stunning images that capture the beauty and magic of these natural spaces. It is often worth visiting a notable garden several times during the year to capture it in different seasons, like in the images above of my favorite Cloudehill Gardens.
Don’t forget your tripod
In addition to these tips and tricks, there are a few items to keep in mind when photographing gardens. One is the use of a tripod. A tripod can help you keep your camera steady and avoid camera shake, which can be particularly important when using slower shutter speeds or longer focal lengths or working with water.
What about filters?
Something else to consider is the use of filters. Depending on the lighting and the subject, you may want to use filters to help control the light in your images. For example, a polarizing filter (or CPL) can help reduce glare and reflections, while a graduated neutral density filter can help balance the exposure between the bright sky and the darker landscape.
Finally, it’s worth remembering that exploring gardens through your lens can be a deeply meditative and therapeutic experience. Gardens have long been associated with relaxation and stress relief and taking the time to slow down and really appreciate the beauty of these spaces can be a powerful way to connect with the natural world and find peace and tranquillity in the midst of a busy life.
So next time you find yourself in a garden, don’t just admire the beauty — grab your camera and start exploring!
There are so many lens options for exploring a garden with your camera, I suggest the following options:
- A good solid 50mm or a 28-75mm workhorse
- Macro or extension tubes I feel are a great option
- Don’t discount a 200mm or 300mm to get to those hard-to-reach flowers
- Tripod and filters
- Flash is also handy if the light isn’t the best
- If at all possible pick a cloudy day, with no rain and not too hot, or cold