How to Photograph Gardens

July 23, 2009 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | Comment |

Millions of people throughout the world love gardens and gardening. At International Garden Photographer of the Year we get over 20,000 entries from people who want to celebrate their - or someone else's - garden.

It's easy isn't it? Gardens are, by definition, places full of visual interest, lovely colours, wonderful textures, easy to get to (walk out of the back door), great! - so what's the problem?

At International Garden Photographer of the Year we offer feedback to anyone who has entered a photograph and has not won. This way we can begin to understand some of the common issues that come up to prevent photographers from being really happy with their images.

Our category 'Garden Views' is one that throws up a lot of questioning and doubt.

"This garden was absolutely fantastic to walk around - I don't think I've captured that atmosphere."

"This was a great vista but my photo makes it look cluttered up with other things."

"This border was full of colour and texture. How can I bring this out in a photograph when I can't fit it all in?"

How to Photograph Gardens

Spring at King Johns Lodge
Claire Takacs
Third Place: Garden Views category - International Garden Photographer of the Year 2009

Getting your Eye In

Many professional garden photographers have one thing in common.

When they go to a garden for the first time, they take no photographs. Often, they will do a 'recce' first - to see what kind of garden it is, to see what's there, and to understand how the sun travels across it during the day. The camera stays in the car. They will look in detail at the planting, assessing various viewpoints. They will talk to the gardener to understand what he or she thinks is important about the garden. And the most important question the photographer will ask is:

What is it about this garden that makes it special?

And the answer to that question will provide the starting point for the shoot. Everything else will flow from here.

How to Photograph Gardens

Water Garden
Jason Liske
Commended: International Garden Photographer of the Year 2009

In this photograph, it is clear that Jason Liske is very familiar with this garden. This garden is not big on colour or texture - it is a wildflower 'meadow' garden with a pool. So there is no focus on these elements. What this garden is about is the open air and the relationship of water and sky - in short - Jason has photographed the atmosphere of this garden. He has done this by choosing his viewpoint very carefully and by picking the time of day.

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