Keeping Your Garden in Focus Through a Camera’s Eye


APR. 06, 2022 What’s Up? Annapolis & What’s Up? Eastern Shore


If you’re like me, your smart phone is filled with pictures of the dog with her new toy, the kids at the beach, and so much more. But, if you look back over the last year, or even two or three years, how many pictures do you have of your garden in its varied splendor? The splash of daffodils along the side fence? Those crazy petunias that kept blooming for months? Your spindly oak sapling that’s getting bigger and lovelier each year? 

With these objectives and probably many others that you can think of, here are some handy tips for making your garden’s photographs particularly lovely and useful.

First, let me share a few photographer’s tips that help get the best photo in the moment. “Good lighting” for outdoor photography is not bright sunlight. Overcast skies or early morning and late afternoon are better for pictures. The muted, softer light produces a better image. Hint: If you plan ahead, take a sheet of tin foil with you. You may be able to set it up as a reflector onto particular blooms for dramatic effect.

Frame your picture. Choose a particular plant or bloom as your focal point. Hold your finger on the screen for just a few seconds, and your phone’s camera will focus for you. Think about textures in a photograph. Try to show the fuzziness of a stem, the rough bark or feathery leaf. Look at the structure of plants as well as the form. Perhaps the unusual angle of a stem or branch, or the contrast of a vining plant with a lush one will make a more interesting photo. 

Here are some tips for artistic pictures to be used later for cards and collages. Plan to take a lot of pictures; don’t limit yourself to one or two shots. You can later discard the images that don’t meet your expectations. Take pictures from different angles: can you go to an upper story or balcony and shoot down into your garden? How about a different bird’s eye view; lie down and shoot pictures up among the rose bushes or through the lavender plants?

Next, using your photographs as a record to help you record changes and areas. Consider a telescoping series of photos. Begin with a close-up of one plant, then move the lens focus to include those plants that surround the one plant. Then, capture the flower bed or portion of the garden. And finally, take a more panoramic photo that sets that single plant and its neighboring plants in the larger context of the garden. 

Create a seasonal collage. Choose some key plants—perhaps even draw a little map so you remember where you are focusing each set of pictures—perhaps one series from the deck looking out, another series from the garden gate looking in. Then, take a few pictures from each vantage point during each season; you might even decide to take the pictures once-a-month. Next winter, as you shoot your last series, you can arrange all the photos from each vantage point, and note the particular beauty of that season or month. 



You may use your photos to monitor a new plant you’ve just added to your garden. Initially, take pictures of the plant at different times of day so you can understand how light hits the plant. Then, take photos week-by-week or month-by-month as it flourishes in your garden. And, if it doesn’t flourish, you’ll have the images to share with a fellow gardener or master gardener who can help you figure out how to treat the plant. 

Finally, your garden photographs provide a handy reminder or to-do list. Jotting down a note-to-self on a scrap of paper, a seed packet, or even a diary you carry with you, may not work out well. I have often searched through my little note pad trying to find my note about moving that Japonica or when I’d fertilized that lovely Bleeding Heart near the front door. Using pictures as reminders may work better.

Make folders on your smart phone photo application labeled with “Reminders for Spring,” “Reminders for Summer,” etc. Then, when you see that pink azalea needs to be moved after it stops blooming, or the mums will have to be pruned in early June for a better shape in September, take pictures and drop them into the “Summer” folder. If you’re like me, you always have your phone in your jeans’ pocket, so you can grab it for a photograph. A quick snap of the camera is much easier than pen and paper in the garden.

You might also create a folder titled “Inspiration.” Here’s where you’ll put those photos you took at a public garden of a cluster of Coreopsis and Cornflowers or the pretty Hibiscus you pass on your morning walk. The phone-camera will even date the pictures, so when you go into your inspiration folder, you can see exactly when you captured these lovelies at their best. 

As always, you’ll come up with more ideas that suit your needs as you begin to think of your smart phone’s camera as another essential gardening tool. 

Garden photos can serve many purposes. Among them are:

  • A fresh viewpoint on your garden—both the familiar and the overlooked beauty there.
  • A record of the growth and expansion of particular plants and trees—throughout the year and over the years.
  • A reminder of plants that need to be moved or trimmed or receive first aid at some later date. 
  • A source of beauty to use as notecards, greeting cards, and other original creations. 

About J. F. Booth

I am a writer and educator.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

I would be interested in your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s