your garden

Join us as we unearth some of the incredible subjects waiting to be captured in your garden

Summerin full swing so therenever a better time to get some sun and enjoy the great outdoors. With flowers in bloom and a flurry of wildlife activity, yousure to find plenty of exciting scenes to photograph. You neednventure far either, your own back garden holds the key to hundreds of Mother Naturebest-kept secrets.

With a little exploration, yousoon discover an abundance of intriguing subjects to shoot. There are plenty of vibrant hues, unusual shapes and interesting textures waiting to be unearthed. Whether youinto photographing food, flowers, macro or wildlife, get into your garden this season to rediscover whatreally out there.

To help get you started, wedone a bit of digging and spoken with a few of the top industry professionals. Join us over the following ten pages as we share all of their expert garden photography advice, with guidance on how to apply the tips in your next shoot. From green-fingered enthusiasts to keen outdoor photographers, theresomething fresh and exciting for everyone, with some great shots to be had along the way.

Alfresco food

There are plenty of interesting subjects worth foraging for in the garden, including food. Gardening enthusiasts will undoubtedly be able to dig up some delicious seasonal subjects, but keen food photographers who arengreen fingered shouldnfeel left out. Most supermarkets stock organic produce that can look just as convincing as the real home-grown variety. With a creative approach to presentation, youstill be able to pull off the just-plucked-from-the-earth appearance.

Award winning food photographer Jason Ingram (www.jasoningram.co.uk) who regularly photographs food alfresco says, food outside does need more attention. You should constantly be looking to see what other photographers are shooting. Styles come and go, so itimportant to be aware of this.”

When shooting earthy subjects like garden food, think practically about appearance. A rustic theme can work well, particularly if youusing props such as wooden benches or wicker baskets as a backdrop. Jason says, props can add to a certain style or feel to a food shoot. Surfaces and backgrounds can be as important as the food itself in some cases.”

The vibrant colours of garden fruit and vegetables guarantee some eye-catching results in-camera. The organic shapes and textures can also lend themselves well to tighter compositions and even bountiful group shots. To make the most of your subjects, think creatively about the angles at which youshooting. A different perspective can lead to a completely different image, so move around with your camera and experiment.

Get hands-on in the garden

Once youselected a subject to shoot, think carefully about the presentation and styling. Try out different backgrounds and don t be afraid to use props. If you re working with a specific theme, stick to it.

If youshooting on a bright sunny day, position a diffuser between the light source and subject. This is great for diffusing the light and softening the harsh shadows and contrast.

Switch your camera over to shoot in manual mode and then adjust your aperture and shutter speed settings for the optimum exposure. Keep ISO low for clear and sharp image results.

Don t feel restricted to shooting your subject at one particular angle, even after youarranged your garden composition. Try changing your perspective as you shoot; this will result in a more diverse mix of images to choose from later on.

Ingredients for a great food shoot

THEME your shoot

Give yourself some direction by theming your photo shoot. A homely, rural-style theme for example, is great for garden food photography and instantly makes you think of nature, warm tones, sunlight and wooden props.


Presentation is important in any food-related photo shoot but you can embrace the garden-related theme further by using props. Woven baskets, chalkboards, wooden chopping boards or benches all make ideal photo extras.


Make the most of the natural light when shooting alfresco. You can use reflectors to bounce some light back into the shadows if needed, or a diffuser to soften the effects of the midday sun.


Dongo to all the trouble of sourcing your garden-themed food to then work inside the studio. Keep your subject in context by shooting on location for a natural backdrop within the frame.


Stationary still-lifes are not going anywhere, so take your time when composing your garden food photos. Altering the perspective and distance you shoot from can completely transform your shots, so donbe afraid to get creative.

Delicate floral details

Above ground, there are even more interesting subjects to shoot. Flowerbeds that are full of brightly coloured flora are sure to add enough vibrancy to your portfolio that sunshine isneven a necessity. In fact, dull-lit cloudy skies are perfect for this kind of subject, particularly if yougetting in close for a few macro shots. Acting a lot like a softbox, the blanket of clouds diffuses the light, giving a more even coverage thatfree from harsh shadows or strong contrast. Award-winning macro photographer Magdalena Wasiczek (www.magdawasiczek.pl) says, the best time to do pictures that are categorized as ’.”

But donlet bright sunlit days put you off shooting altogether; a lightweight diffuser can come in handy to help shelter your subject from the concentrated rays. Alternatively, reconsider the time of day youshooting. Direct sunlight during early mornings or late afternoons is generally a lot softer than whatavailable at midday. Magdalena says,

on time of day, the light can also offer a specific colour. For me, the perfect time to shoot is from late afternoon until sunset. At this time, the low sun beautifully illuminates the plants and gives them a warm, golden glow.”

To manipulate the available light, you can try using a small hand mirror or reflector. This is ideal if you want to fill in the shadows or simply highlight the main subject within the shot.

Traditionally, flower photographs are mainly macro based, but you shouldnfeel obliged to get in close for every frame. When composing, try zooming out if possible to give the subject more space within the image; this will also enable you to add other interesting elements in the foreground or background of the shot.

Magdalena points out, can add a coloured background into my images by using my childrentoys, which have been abandoned in the garden. Colourful walls and fences are also great.”

Creativity in-camera is also important and can help ensure your shots stand out among the crowd of others. Magdalena says, pictures are a record of impression, colours and light rather than encyclopaedic documentation. I try to shoot with as many effects as I can while taking photos.”Be experimental with flowerbed photography and aim to find new ways in which to photograph whatfamiliar. The weather or seasonal changes shouldnput you off shooting outside either. There maybe a lack of colour but therestill plenty in the garden to shoot. Magdalena says, still enjoy photographing the garden during seasons such as late autumn and winter, as Iable to put together still-life compositions using dried flowers, leaves and shells. In early spring, I can then start photographing the flowers which appear in pots.”

Intricate macro

Gardens are not only a nurturing place for plants, theyalso a sanctuary for a whole host of other wild inhabitants. Take creepy crawlies for example; they may not make ideal subjects for the squeamish but they are incredible to photograph up close. Youoften be surprised to find just how much hidden detail can be captured. Fascinating shapes, textures, patterns and even vibrant colours suddenly become more apparent and everyday insects go from being mundane to magnificent. Macro pro Magdalena says, what inhabits your closest environment, youoften be surprised by how many interesting creatures actually live in your garden and even in the meadows behind your house.”

your garden

Capturing these extraordinary critters at close range will of course require a good-quality macro lens. Alternatively, cheaper extension tubes that connect between the camera body and standard lenses can be used to help achieve similar macro magnification. But, by comparison, image quality isnas great and yoube more reliant on additional lighting for an even exposure. Italso worth noting that most macro lenses come with built-in image stabilisation too, which can help to ensure your shots stay shake-free when shooting handheld. This is particularly useful when working with wide apertures. Ordinarily, a tripod would come in handy here to avoid fast shutter speeds and underexposures. However, working with quick-moving subjects, up close, makes this a little impractical, so the quality of the light youshooting under really counts.

On bright sunlit days, fast shutter speeds and high ISOs should be sufficient enough to ensure an even exposure. However, overcast skies or low evening light will require some form of flash or additional light source even if youworking with wide apertures. Consider using either a ring flash accessory or alternatively two speed lights mounted on either side of the lens to compensate.

When youshooting critters up close, autofocus may seem like a natural setting choice, given the subject matter, but manual focus is surprisingly more accurate. For sharp shot results, prefocus your lens prior to framing your shot, this way you wonhave to wait for the lens to search and lock onto what can be an extremely small subject. You can still fine-tune the focus as you shoot of course or, if iteasier, simply alter the distance between you and the subject in order to find the focused area.

How you compose these kinds of close-up shots is also important. To emphasise the subject, youneed to centralise them within the frame. Magdalena says, ’trick is to show a small world in such a way that it impresses the average man who has so far paid no attention to the miniature world at his feet. Aim to create pictures will delight them and help them to see what is both beautiful and diverse.”

Take an extreme insect close up

Search for a subject If you do your research prior to setting off on a shoot, youknow exactly where to find specific species. For impromptu shoots, explore the garden undergrowth and look in dark, damp places.

Adjust your camera settings If you re photographing insects that dwell in dark places, up your ISO and open your aperture wide. You ll need a fast shutter speed to avoid motion blur, particularly if your subject is skittish.

Focus manually Switch your camera lens over manual focus in order to get more control over the focus area. Prefocus your lens prior to shooting, you can then alter the distance your shooting from to lock focus on your subject.

Ten top tips for capturing those critters up close


Subjects with wings can be airborne and out of the frame within seconds, so always be alert with your camera set up, ready to shoot.


Skittish or fast-moving insects can be difficult to capture. Ensure youworking with fast shutter speeds and even a flash to get the sharpest of shots.


Donbe put off by seemingly bland subjects. Up close insects can surprisingly be more colourful and detailed than they first appear.


Patience is key, dongive up just because you didnget a shot first time round, persevere and keep shooting. Another photogenic bug is likely to appear before long.


Find your inner explorer and get into the undergrowth to unearth some incredible wildlife that looks great up close.


Get to know your garden inhabitants and find out what food or flora entices them. You can then use that knowledge to your advantage and tempt them in for a shoot.


The best time to shoot insects is during the early morning, this is when they generally appear more sluggish as the sun hasnyet warmed them up for the day ahead.


A macro lens is without doubt a kitbag necessity if you want to get good-quality macro close-ups of insects. Alternatively try cheaper extension tubes that attach onto a standard lens.


Use wide aperture settings to help emphasise and isolate subjects within the frame. This will also help to bring out finer details such as patterns, textures and colours.


Avoid inaccurate autofocus settings by manually focusing your lens prior to shooting. To find focus, simply adjust the distance youshooting at from the subject.

Garden wildlife

Insects are not the only wildlife subjects youfind living in the garden. Birds, foxes, hedgehogs and even deer may be regular visitors or even permanent residents in your area. Stake out the natural green spaces around your house and garden to find out exactly what animals are local, and more importantly at what times of the day or night they appear. Once youestablished which species are around, you can research their behaviour to help you get ahead and foresee possible shoots. This is something professional wildlife photographer Simon Roy (www.siphoto.co.uk) advocates. He points out, is important, especially when targeting wild and timid creatures. Itgood to be aware of when the animals you want to photograph will be in prime condition too.”You can even use your newfound knowledge to help entice particular animals into your garden. Simon says, have a large compost heap and manage my garden so there are untouched and overgrown spaces. I also have a bird feeding station and grow plants and flowers in order to attract insects.”

Wildlife in general can be notoriously hard to photograph, including the coy garden varieties. Most animals have strong survival instincts so theybe able to hear, smell and often see you long before youeven aware of them. To get the shot, youhave to move slowly and shoot quickly-fast shutter speeds are essential here. To keep up with all the action and ensure sharp shots, set your autofocus to continuous AF mode in order to track moving subjects while you compose the image through the viewfinder. Always remember that focused eye contact is important in any portrait shoot, including wildlife. Shooting at eye level will also help to create a more engaging image.

When it comes to kit, a camera lens that features a silent wave motor (SWM) is ideal. This will enable your autofocus to search for and lock onto a subject without any audible noise, so yoube less likely to alert animals to your presence. Simon also suggests, yourself and your equipment when shooting and donforget to consider the direction of the wind. I will try to stay low and as silent as possible to be respectful of the environment in which I am working.”Keeping one eye on the subject through the viewfinder and the other on the scene can also help prepare you for any upcoming shot possibilities or required exposure setting changes.

As with any on location shoot, good lighting is essential. Simon says, is critical in all forms of photography and must be considered when planning every shot. I always try to photograph with the lowest ISO speed possible, but on occasions this must be raised in order to achieve the desired shutter speed and aperture settings.”This can be particularly problematic if youlimited by available light. Reflectors, diffusers and flashes arenalways practical for wildlife photography so opening up your aperture and increasing ISO can be essential. Fortunately, wide apertures can work in your favour by creating an artistic shallow depth-of-field effect that isolates your subject within the scene. They can also help to eliminate any distracting background or foreground elements for more professional results.

Patience is key to any wildlife shoot so donbe put off if you donfind the sort of subjects you want right away. Thereso much more to unearth in the garden that yousure to find something just as engaging to shoot, even if itoutside of your usual genre. Always remember that the garden is a year-round photographic location too, so do some research and find out when whaton offer seasonally. This way youalways be prepared to take some impromptu wildlife shots.

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