Gardens are beautiful and popular subjects for photography, but taking high-quality garden pictures can be difficult. Photographers must contend with several factors beyond their control: weather, sunlight, the plants themselves. Following a few guidelines, however, can help ensure vivid photographs that capture a garden's natural beauty.
Avoid bright sunlight.
Overcast days provide the best lighting for garden photography. Bright sunlight can create too much contrast, making some areas of the picture look washed out, and creating dark, distracting shadows in other spots. The diffused light of a cloudy day can soften the sunlight, evening out the lighting and producing deeper, richer colors and textures. If you can't wait for a cloudy day, take pictures during the early morning or late afternoon, when the light is not as harsh. You can also create diffused lighting, by holding paper or cloth between the sun and the subject of the photograph. This will soften the lighting and make shadows less prominent.
Plan the shot carefully.
Gardens have a lot of elements in them, and incorporating too many in a photograph can make it look cluttered. Start by choosing which element to focus on--the entire rose bush, or just a single flower? The layout of the garden, including pathways, stepping stones, insects and animals? Or just one flowerbed? Choose which element to emphasize, and eliminate anything that detracts attention. The photo will have more impact if it features a clearly dominant subject.
Gardens make great photograph subjects by themselves, but incorporating a few small touches can create interest and depth. Water droplets clinging to flowers heighten a photograph's drama; try taking pictures after a rain, or early in the morning when the plants are soaked with dew. Also, consider featuring a garden's other residents: the insects. They are important members of a garden, and their presence adds even more life to the photograph. It may take patience to get just the right shot, though, and it is best to keep your distance and not crowd them.
Taking good garden pictures requires practice. Try experimenting with lighting, composition, techniques and equipment to get just the right look, and take note of what works and what doesn't. Above all, have fun with it. Garden photography can be a rewarding hobby, but only if it gives you a greater appreciation of the natural beauty all around you.