Ten Top Tips
1. Take a tripod. You rarely use fast shutter speeds for plant portraits or garden views. A tripod gives you maximum flexibility and control over aperture settings plus greater stability when using long macro lens.
2. Early or late. In summer, the midday sun casts blocky shadows that are unflattering for plants and gardens. They often look best in the softer early morning light, or in late evening. Later in the year, you can use midday light asit is never directly overhead.
3. Don’t forget winter. Many people think garden and plants only exist in the spring and summer. They’re still there in the winter with lovely muted brown textures and weird abstract shapes made magical by frost andice.
4. Use backlighting. Herbaceous plants can often look more dramatic and interesting with rim or backlighting – another reason for photographing early morning or late evening in summer.
5. Reflections.Using a reflector for close up shots often punches light back into the enclosed shape of a flowerhead – revealing detail and drama.
6. Plants are people too. Don’t forget that gardens and plants are owned and loved by the gardeners who own them. Be friendly and professional and always offer garden owners some prints from your work. Make sure garden owners are credited if your work is published.
7. Get the knowledge. If you’re a gardening photographer you will instinctively know when a plant is looking at its best for photography. If you’re not, then read gardening books and watch gardening programmes on TV - or team up with someone with gardening knowledge.
8. Gardens are homes. Insects, birds and animals all live in gardens and make great subjects in their own right.
9. Colour right. If using film, remember that the blue colour in flowers – for example, bluebells – will always be recorded by the film as a pinky-mauve colour. The film picks up part of the colour spectrum that insects can see but we cannot.
10. Take your time. Plants and gardens do not run away but it often takes time forthem to reveal their secrets. Time spent in wandering and contemplation will be repaid when you see more revealing, more atmospheric shots.
Philip Smith organiser of the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition and exhibition.
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