About Central Florida Gardener

Welcome and thank you for visiting Central Florida Gardener. Florida is a unique state in which to garden. It can be frustrating but also rewarding for gardeners who persevere. This blog was created as a resource for Florida gardeners, both new and experienced, in search of information specifically for Florida gardens.

You are invited to participate by leaving your comments, suggestions, tips and recommendations relevant to Florida gardening - don't be shy! Thank you for dropping by to learn more about gardening in the Sunshine state. I look forward to hearing from you! Susan

Friday, March 26, 2010

Taking Pictures in the Garden: Part 1

Hey everybody! My name is Christy and I'm a friend of Susan's - our daughters go to school together. Susan has invited me to share a series of posts with you, her fabulous readers, about taking better pictures in the garden.
Now, before we get too far into this, let me make it clear that I am not a professional. I don't belong to any associations and I haven't won any awards or been published anywhere that sounds impressive. I just love to take pictures! My interest has led me to take a couple of classes and over the years I've moved from simple point-and-shoot digital cameras to more complicated models. Currently, I am in love with my new Canon 50D. She's my baby. I take her everywhere in a pretty little bag with a matching, handmade camera strap. "Pretty" and "matching" count for a lot in my little world.
Ahem. Let's move on.
I figure that lots of you out there are taking your pictures with point-and-shoot digital cameras. Some of you may have invested in mid-level cameras and a few of you have probably really invested in cameras with lots of buttons and you don't know what to do with them. So, I'd like to start at the bottom and work our way to the top, okay?
All of the pictures in this post were taken with an ancient Olympus point-and-shoot 4 megapixel camera (!) and I aim to prove that even with an ancient camera that you're embarrassed to show to your friends, you can take better pictures than you are now!

Tip # 1: Turn off your flash!
Somewhere on your camera, you will see a little icon that looks like a lightning bolt or maybe a zig-zaggy arrow. Push that button! It might seem that, if you're shooting in the shade you need the extra light, but trust me - you probably don't. The camera's flash will probably give you ugly, harsh shadows and eye-cringing highlights that detract from the beauty you are trying to capture. Case in point -
Azaleas with flash:

Azaleas without flash:

Much prettier!

Tip #2: Try your macro setting.
This button probably looks like a little tulip or some other kind of flower. This is because your macro setting is great for taking pictures of flowers. Seems obvious now, doesn't it? This setting allows your camera to focus on a subject at a much closer range and, while bringing your subject into focus, will blur out unnecessary background details.

Regular setting:

Macro setting:

I really like how that rose turned out!

Tip #3: Make the most of the lighting conditions.
Gardeners all know that different places in your yard have different lighting conditions. We all plan and plant accordingly. Sunlight can affect your pictures just as much as it does your garden. Before you take that picture, take a minute to observe how the light affects your subject. Direct sun can create harsh shadows, just like your camera's flash does.
I really loved these collard greens at Susan's house, but I hated how the sunlight was making parts of the leaves blindingly white and parts of it covered with hard shadows.

So I moved in a little closer, hoping for a better angle. I really liked how the plant filled the frame on this shot - maybe it's just me, but I think it looks like a green, textured rose.

But I still think the light is too harsh. It still makes my eyes hurt a little.
So, I moved around to observe how the light was affecting my subject. Then I noticed that, from below, the light was shining through the leaves and making them glow.

Now, I really liked how the shot was framed on the previous one, but I love what the light does to the plant at this angle, and I think it's my favorite of the two. This is just a matter of personal preference.
But that little exercise brings me to my next tip -

Tip #4: Move around your subject.
My photography professor likes to say that people tend to "plant" their feet in front of a subject and just start shooting. If you do that, though, your pictures will look like everyone else's!
Susan has an adorable grouping of pots on her back porch (remember those free ones from a few posts ago?) and I wanted to take a picture of them. So I did - I took one from where I was standing.

Hm. It's really lacking something, isn't it? So, I tried getting down at eye-level with the grouping.

I like that, from here, you can see the little bunny's smile.
Here's another series of photos to demonstrate how moving around the subject and trying different things can give you very different photographs of the same subject.

And as you continue to move around and try different things, you are likely to settle on the "money shot" - the one you really love. It rarely happens with the first snap of the shutter for me. I usually take several shots before I really come up with the one I love and I am guessing the same will be true for you too. Here's what happened right at the end of this series:

This was my favorite shot from the whole morning!

A few other basic tips:
Your camera's manual is your best friend! Every camera is different. The buttons do different things and are located in different places. Read it and try out the tricks your camera can do.
Seriously. Just get out there and take pictures! Don't wait until the weather or the lighting is perfect or until you have the camera of your dreams. Great pictures can be taken with the simplest of cameras. It's really all about capturing your unique view of the world.
Try some photo editing software. There are lots of free ones like Picasa and The Gimp. Like I said, I shot all of these pictures with a very old, basic camera. I didn't really like how a lot of them turned out - especially in the shade, where they all looked a little blue to me. I took one that was pretty blue and did a very basic color correction in The Gimp. Check it out!


There is really so much more that we could talk about, but there's a lot of information in this post. I'll be back with a post about shooting with mid-level digital cameras and, if nobody's thrown any rotten tomatoes by then, a final post about DSLRs.
Thanks for listening to me ramble about doing something I love. Now, get out in your yard and take some pictures!


Susan said...

Hey Christy...Thanks for being a guest blogger and providing us with some great photography tips. It look me a long time to figure out a couple things...#1 that I should get down on a plant's level instead of taking a photo while standing over it...and #2 that I should snap photos of the plant from different angles instead of taking 5 or 6 photos from one spot. Seems like a no-brainer...but it wasn't. Thanks again, and I look forward to your tips for mid-level cameras.

Ami said...

Thanks, Christy and Susan! Those are the great tips! As the new gardener and new blogger, I am learning how to take the great pictures for my plants at the same time! I do use the Macro setting a lot, they do bring out the subject with blurred backgroud. I also figured out changing the position has a great impact how the picture looks. I need to remember the tip#1 though, turn off the flash light!

Thanks again.

Meems said...

Great post with very good information. I've been waiting for it and it didn't disappoint. Can't wait to read the rest... always can use pointers.

NanaK said...

Oh boy! Thanks for this post. I have an ancient point and shoot and have been lusting after at least a mid-range camera. Now, I'll see if I can't do better with what I have. I look forward to the future posts which will help me figure out what I can comfortably move up to in the photography world.

Wicked Gardener said...

Great post Christy! Loved the tips. I'm downloading GIMP as I write this!

Penny McCrea said...

Brilliant! Thanks, Christy, for the tips, and Susan for asking Christy.

And I may copy your idea and ask photog friends to post, too.

Susan said...

Christy is on spring break vacation this week, but she will be checking in to respond to your comments. In the mean time...

Glad that ya'll found the post helpful. There are definitely some tricks to taking better photos, and Christy is off to a great start in helping us all improve the quality of our garden blog photos.

Penny...Yes, you may definitely copy our idea and ask friends to post.

Belle said...

Great tips. Love the macros setting on my camera it catches great detail

Joseph said...

a lot of great tips, some i should consider a little more when taking pictures for my blog! thank you for the tips and advice!

Kimberly said...

Such great tips! I like how you've demonstrated with the photo itself also. Very nicely done! Thank you! Now I have to go practice!!!

walk2write said...

Sometimes the simplest of ideas prove to be the most valuable. Thanks, Christy, for sharing your tips. I am slowly moving up in the world of digital cameras, and every bit of help I can get is very much appreciated. I usually have the most trouble with getting around/down to my subject to get the best shot. The old body doesn't want to move like it used to!

Patrice said...

Very informative post! I learned how to take photos like a professional in my garden. Those links that you shared are very useful. Thanks.

Andrea said...

Hi Susan, i am new here i am very glad to have followed your comment somewhere. It is serendipitous that my first time has Christy there posting something about photography which is very useful. Yes i am just a PnS user who is now trying a new Olympus E620 and still has difficulty learning about the buttons. I hope you will always urge Christy to be a guest here, for the photo shooting advice. Thank you.

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