Focus on your garden

G PA Photo/Clive Nicholls
G PA Photo/Clive Nicholls

Ever thought about how to capture frost-covered holly, close-ups of pretty petals or swathes of woodland bulbs in fading light?

If you’ve not had much success taking good pictures of your plants, eminent flower and plant photographer Clive Nichols offers some useful pointers on how aspiring horticultural photographers can create pictures to frame proudly rather than instantly delete.

“If you’re shooting outdoors, give yourself the best possible chance of success and select somewhere photogenic. The garden of a National Trust or English Heritage property would be a good place to start, or alternatively a well-maintained public or privately-owned garden,” says Nichols, who runs online courses on the subject.

“Of course, if you’re lucky enough to have a wonderful garden of your own, start there.”

The National Gardens Scheme (www.ngs.org.uk) has thousands of gardens that open nationwide to the public in all seasons, so check on your nearest open garden and go and visit - chat to the owners and they may well allow you to take some photographs.

Take note of the weather, he advises.

“Unless you want shots with subject movement, you should ideally shoot on a day when there’s little wind. I use sites like BBC Weather to check on wind speeds and when they drop below 5mph that triggers me to go out and take pictures.”

One of the major mistakes that amateurs make when photographing plants and gardens is to shoot in bright sunlight.

“Although your brain is saying ‘Wow, this garden looks amazing’, your pictures will probably be disappointing because of dark inky shadows and bright, burnt-out highlights.

“Put simply, your pictures will probably be too contrasty. Shooting on overcast days with a bit of sunshine pushing through the clouds will undoubtedly yield better results as the soft, diffused light allows you to capture the subtle colour and texture of flowers and plants.

“Choosing the right time of day is also important. You can get good shots in the middle of the day, but I prefer to shoot with early morning or late afternoon light, when the sunlight is raking across gardens, throwing shadows which add three-dimensionality and depth to your photos.

“I like to shoot towards the sun when it’s low in the sky, so your subject is lit from behind, which adds beauty and sparkle to flowers and foliage.”