Five Tips for Better Garden Photographs

 by Lea Anne Moran | February 2015

This mid-winter respite away from your garden is the ideal time to think about how to take better photographs of your garden. Here are five tips that might help you improve your garden photos.

1.  Time of day

The key to getting a good shot of the garden is to choose the right time of day to get out there with your camera. The best light occurs in the early morning or the late evening, within an hour or two of sunrise or sunset. In the morning especially, the air is calm, which means that the flowers will be still, and you’re more likely to get clearer images. The sun is low in the sky, and the shadows aren’t as harsh at these times. The light is soft golden color at these times and adds a nice glow to the garden.

If you can’t photograph at these times, choose a bright overcast day, when the clouds let the slightest light through. My favorite light is when the sun glows through thin clouds, barely making a shadow.

Photo caption: The Sunken Garden was photographed in the early morning on a sunny day. The long shadows are created by the low rising sun coming from the right side, giving definition to the structures.

2.  Frame your subject

Framing is a technique used to isolate the main subject of your photo. There are lots of examples of structures that you can use to draw the viewer’s eye to the focal point in your photo. Some are obvious, like doors, windows, buildings, or trees. Try looking around for these and you might be surprised at what you come up with.

Photo caption: An opening in the stone wall at Hill-Stead Museum not only frames a view of the Sunken Garden and the summer house in early spring, but gives a sense of the history of the place.

3.  Leading lines

As the name implies, leading lines are those that direct your eye through the image and often to the main subject of the photo. They can be diagonals, curves, S-curves, or zigzag lines that take the viewer’s attention to the main focal point. They add a sense of movement as they direct the viewer throughout the image.

Photo caption: The red brick pathway directs the eye through the image, tying the pink, white and coral tulips in the foreground to the pink apple blossoms and red quince blooms in the back of the scene. 

4.  Keep it simple

Avoid the urge to capture everything in the scene in one image. It’s better to pick something that you are interested in and make that the focal point of the image. You can tell a more effective story with a very simple image. When you avoid all the distractions of the scene, you let the viewer see exactly what you are trying to say.

Rose Arbor

Photo caption: A simple photo of one small part of the rose arbor stands out against the strong blue of the sky, giving the sense that the roses are all that matter in this scene.

5.  Look beyond the ordinary

When it comes to close-ups of flowers, try looking at them from a different angle than you would normally view them. Get down low to see them from the ground level, look into them to see what colors might be hiding inside the petals, look for tiny insects crawling on the flower head. Take a look at them from the back rather than head-on. Some of the best details are captured when you look a little closer!

Photo caption: This cosmos was photographed from behind, showing just how perfect a flower can be, even with a blemish or two. It is a view one doesn’t often see.

~  Lea Anne Moran, Garden Manager

Hill-Stead Museum