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Photographing Your Garden

Tips for taking picture-perfect photos of your garden.

You don't need to be a professional photographer in order to capture subtle surprises in your yard or record how your garden looks from season to season. Practice makes perfect, so follow these tips to make your photos "click."

Camera Considerations
How you take pictures may depend on what type of camera you choose to use. By using a more technical methodology for taking pictures, you can use different lenses, such as close-up or zoom lenses, on an SLR camera and experiment with various settings for lighting, depth of field and more. With an artistic approach, you may focus more on staging a shot with a point-and-shoot camera than on changing lenses and apertures.

Lighting
Once you have a camera you're comfortable with, focus on lighting. Play around with the aperture settings, or the f-stop, on your camera. The aperture refers to the ability of the camera lens to collect light. It opens the lens up or closes the lens down. Think of it as the iris in your eye. When you look in the sun, your iris closes down. If you're in the dark, your iris opens up so you can take in more light. The same philosophy works on the SLR camera.

With a point-and-shoot camera, the lighting refinements are a bit less mechanical. If the sun is blasting down on a shot, use a light diffuser to make the light less harsh. Shiny boards can help block light. It can also reflect light into a scene, but you can use aluminum foil or mirrors to do the same thing.

Avoid getting sun on the lens because it can cause lens flare or overexposure; use a light diffuser to reduce the flare.

Camera Angles
Try new angles for shots. Crouch down to appreciate your garden from a different perspective and shoot from the backside of a flower toward the sky. Or, take a traditional wide shot where you stand up and get an overview of your garden. While moving around to get a wide shot, focus on the composition in the frame.

Shooting the Seasons in the Garden
There is seasonal information in each photo of your garden. That may mean taking shots of not just the emerging foliage in spring but also the dead stuff in winter; this gives the garden photo a seasonal context. You could cut plants that are dying back out of the frame in order to make everything pretty, but then you wouldn't know what season it is.

You can use seasonality in another way in garden photography. Play around with the varying angles of the sun throughout the seasons and use shadows to your advantage. After autumn leaves have fallen, the branches of a tree are revealed, and you can get dramatic abstract images of tree silhouettes.

Staging a Garden Shot
Use props to help stage garden photos. For example, if you want to take a shot of a bouquet of flowers picked from your garden, set up a couple of garden chairs and drape a solid-colored curtain panel over them to create a backdrop.

Get outdoors and start experimenting with your garden photography. Document what's going on in the garden year-round. Don't worry about taking bad photographs. Use the delete button to get rid of the bad shots before anyone else sees them, and use picture-enhancing computer software. Even photos occasionally spend time in the shop.

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