Julia Atkinson-Dunn is the writer and creative behind Studio Home.
A really satisfying part of my gardening adventure has been documenting progress as I go.
Looking back at photos from my first year planting, I can immediately recall my excitement when these humble petunias and cosmos bloomed, while also being quite amazed at the garden compared to now. My backlog of images is a beautiful reminder of how far this obsession has taken me.
My love of photography is greatly encouraged by having a garden and as my growing skills grow so does my passion for getting creative with the camera.
* A beginner’s guide to pollination in your garden
* How to water your garden effectively and sustainably
* Lessons learned during my freshman year as a gardener
* 10 tips for taking better photos of flowers and plants
Devoid of any expectations that a professional photographer could fulfil, the quiet time I spend photographing my flowers and borders has turned into a creative hobby in which I delight in experimentation.
This regular documentation has also supported my gardening knowledge and connection to the life cycles in my own garden. Not only has my garden as a whole undergone a major transformation each year, but each season has also provided visual treats to collect and remember.
When planning, I can easily refer to my library of images to better understand how much light an area is receiving, which is critical to my planting combinations. I can also compare the growth of trees and the noticeable improvement of plants that I have moved to better positions.
Whether you prefer to reach for your camera, phone, or tablet, there are some basic tips I use to help me capture the magic of my garden the way it feels at the time.
My urge has always been to capture atmosphere and a sense of place beyond a simple, direct snapshot – it’s so much fun to have with.
Photo at the end of the day
The softness and lower angle of the morning and late afternoon sun gives the garden a glow that invites me to use that light to my advantage. I like to point my lens at it and use it to backlight certain plants or beds.
I enjoy moving my camera to let rays of light or points of light into the frame without completely washing out the photo. I love nothing more than a plant specimen outlined in golden lines by the sun shining through behind.
Find your focus
Before taking your picture, first make sure your device is focused on the area you want to highlight. On a camera with autofocus, this is often found by training and adjusting a green square to lock onto your subject with half a button press.
On a phone or tablet, you can tap the subject on your screen to focus. If you’re taking a wider shot of a garden bed, tap or select a spot in the middle and snap a few shots of it to make sure you have a working one.
Change your point of view
Expand from simple standing-height photography to explore your garden from all angles. I balance on the edges of my raised beds to shoot from above, drop a knee to see plants “through and up,” and often wade into beds to discover another aspect in their midst. In fact, I prefer it when blurred green cuts through a shot because I feel like it pulls me further into the final image.
Get up close to your plants, find your focus and marvel at the delicious results as your device automatically reduces the depth of field. I encourage those with phones to explore the portrait mode option for that too.
Use your legs to zoom
If you’re using a phone or tablet, I would suggest that you don’t use your fingers to zoom and instead take progressive photos as you get closer to your subject. Although technology has improved by leaps and bounds, a “zoomed in” image is never that sharp, best just with a camera.
Look for your lines
One of the easiest ways to improve your photo shoot is to take the time to make sure all of the hard lines are even. This can be a fence, the horizon, or a raised planter running through the background of your frame. I also take this into account with vertical lines like doorways or porch posts by tilting my camera and body forward/back, up or down until they’re nicely parallel to the screen.
If I later review my images and find that I didn’t get it right, I use my phone’s built-in editing software (or an editing app) to adjust the tilt and save it again.
Look at your composition
If we never stopped to think about our shot, it would only be natural to place a subject in the center of the frame. However, playing around with the off-center shift can often result in a more visually pleasing result.
When composing your recording, mentally divide it into thirds, both horizontally and vertically. Try to place your subject along the lines or at the intersection of each third instead of right in the middle. It’s very helpful to turn on the “grid” option on your phone and camera to get used to composing with these zones. It is born!
You can join Julia Atkinson-Dunn at @studiohomegardening or below studiohome.co.nz