orange and purple

IMG_2116September 27, 2015—first full moon of the fall and, probably a frost. The last lingering flowers will wither on their stalks, and any remaining veggies will be lost here in New England. Already many of the daylilies have gone by as well the red bee balm that attracted the hummingbirds. Beauty can be fleeting so it’s important to snap pictures of your garden throughout the season.  And perhaps like me, you take pictures of flowers when you travel in order to capture your surroundings to help remember the ambiance of a favorite location.  In any case, taking pictures is fun. Keeping a few guidelines in mind will ensure our pictures are more interesting.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a really good photographer. Occasionally, I surprise myself and find that I have taken a stunning picture, but most of the time they are far from perfect.  The images I use to illustrate the guidelines are in the latter category.  I was just having fun, snapping away.  Several of the images were taken by fellow BoomerTECH Adventures guide, Chris Toy.  His images tend to be more eye-catching because he is thoughtful in his composition and is willing to lie belly-down in the dirt to get a good shot. At the end of the post are a couple of links to professional photographers who specialize in flowers.  Check out their images for inspiration for your own endeavors.  In the meantime, let’s have some fun by experimenting with the following  guidelines.

1. Find and use the grid on your camera. Most cameras, these days, allow you to turn on a grid to help you compose interesting images. On an Apple iPhone or iPad, you have to go to Settings and then Photos and Camera to find the grid option.  In Androids, the grid option is usually in the camera settings.  Full-size digital cameras also usually have the grid option, but you may have to hunt through your various settings to find it.


You can just barely see the grid in this night photo of my tomato plant. Notice I didn’t center the tomato, but rather it sits on the intersection of two grid lines. The experts say that that putting the main  subject slightly off center makes for a more interesting composition.


Here’s a daylight image of the grid in action.  You can see the flowers are each at an intersection of the grid lines.  You may be wondering why I have a night image of my tomato (which is taking forever to ripen!).  When I started to write this post, it was 10 pm and I realized I didn’t have any images with the grid turned on.  So I turned on the deck light, donned my BoomerTECH Adventures cap with its solar-power light and went tramping around looking for a good subject to demonstrate the grid.  Fortunately, no little beady eyes reflected back at me, but there were a lot of creepy-crawlies on the plants and the garden smelled unusual. It was a humid night and the peppery scent of the daylilies was strong.  It was actually pretty interesting to be viewing the garden after dark, but enough musing about night gardens, back to the grid. The grid will not show up in your images—I took screen shots of what I saw on my phone’s screen so that’s why the lines are there.

2. Get in close: Focusing on just one flower or something interesting that is happening on or near the plant will make your audience gasp with awe.

Caterpillar (1)

Now you have something interesting to identify–is it friend or foe? It’s also fun to get close to just one bloom or a cluster of blossoms.

red poppies


Chris Toy photo

Chris Toy photo

Don’t limit yourself just to the flowers.  There is all sorts of interesting plant and animal life around us.

3. Look for contrasts in color and texture. The lichen against the bark makes for interesting patterns and textures.  The bright reddish-orange of the fungi stands out brilliantly from the mottled greenish-brown of its surroundings.

Lichen--Matinicus Island

Lichen–Matinicus Island

These small red fungi were found in Nova Scotia near Kejimkujik National Park. Chris Toy photo

These small red fungi were found in Nova Scotia near Kejimkujik National Park. Chris Toy photo

4. Think about layering and framing your subject. Good paintings often have depth—so do eye-catching photos.  Play around with angles so you can have something interesting in the foreground, midstream, and in the distance.

Prickly pear cactus-Mission San Juan Bautista, CA

Prickly pear cactus-Mission San Juan Bautista, CA

Pumpkin Display at Spear Vegetable Farm

Pumpkin Display at Spear Vegetable Farm

It’s fun to figure out how to frame an image.  Sometimes it’s through a doorway or window, and in the image below, the surrounding branches create a setting for this Australian bottlebrush bloom .

Australian Bottlebrush plant—UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

Australian Bottlebrush plant—UC Santa Cruz Arboretum


5. Be inventive to create ambiance.  Want to simulate morning dew? Use a mister at high noon to form water droplets on the blossoms.  Use flashlights and headlamps at night to cast interesting shadows and deep, dark and maybe spooky backdrops for your flowers.

Look closely for the water droplets.

Look closely for the water droplets.

What's lurking in the dark—fortunately there isn't a white strip in the background!

What’s lurking in the dark—fortunately, there isn’t a white stripe in the background!

6. Play around with your panoramic option. Many of the newer digital devices have a panoramic setting in their camera apps.  Try it out, and get a wider sweep of your garden.


Hosta, astilbe, mint, and a few weedy friends.

Hosta, ferns, astilbe, mint, and a few weedy friends.

7. Use those editing tools.  Smartphones, tablets, and computers all have editing tools in their photo galleries.  You can crop, enhance, play with the exposure, and even turn a color image into a retro black and white picture. The first image below is the original picture. The second is the result of cropping and playing with exposure and color.  The bee becomes a focal point instead of just a small highlight.


Version 2


In this next set of images, I cropped and used the option to turn a slightly fuzzy color photo into a black and white study which is more interesting.



Have fun with your flower and plant life photography.  The delightful thing about digital photography is that you can immediately trash what you don’t like and enhance the images that capture your memories or document your plantings. But again, most of all, enjoy your picture taking!

For inspiration, check out these sites:

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