Garden photography tips from a pro

Acclaimed wildlife photographer David Plummer, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009 aged 40, after noticing he had a twitch and his left hand would shake. Initially David put it down to his hectic lifestyle and it was months before he sought help. David was devastated to be diagnosed with a condition that he thought only affected older people, and he kept his Parkinson’s a secret for seven years.

In 2017, he began speaking publicly about his condition and published a book of highlights of his work taken after his diagnosis, entitled 7 Years of Camera Shake. He is a volunteer for our beneficiary charity, Parkinson’s UK, where he is a Peer Supporter, helping others with the condition.

As a world-renowned photographer whose work has been featured in wildlife publications, and national and international press, David shares his five simple steps to improve your garden photography and create a winning image for the National Garden Scheme photo competition.

Photo credit: David Plummer

David said about his top tips: “Going out and putting these prescriptive steps into practice, you can turn a potentially dull image of a garden flower into something really special. And remember, if you are going to take a photograph, just go the extra distance and take a good one!”

5 simple steps to improve your garden photography

  1. Don’t try to include everything in an image; simply hone in on one flower or plant. Trying to include too much can often dilute your images either of your garden, or of natural areas such as bluebells in woodland. Keep it simple.
  1. With the above in mind, try to isolate your subject; choose a foreground subject with the background a long way away. This should hopefully blur your background and direct your viewers eye straight to your main subject. This is the role of the photographer; by careful composition, to subtly steer where your viewer focuses their attention in an image and hopefully affect their emotions. Try to make them feel a part of the garden rather than just give them a documentary image to look at.
  1. Get level with your subject. Pointing down or up on a subject makes for really dull imagery; getting low and level with your flower for example will both serve to give intimacy to the shot as well as what we were striving to achieve in point 2 – isolating the subject. Give it a try and you will see the difference.
  1. Use back-light. Potentially the riskiest light to photograph in, but can also be the most rewarding, especially on flowers such as poppies or hairy stemmed plants. Back-light can really add romance to a shot giving flowers and leaves stained-glass window effect.
  1. Use a longer focal length, or zoom in. This will serve to give impact to your image by creating a foreshortening effect which will compress that blurred background right up against the foreground; it is actually an optical illusion but highly effective. Whereas using shorter focal length or wide-angle settings will potentially put more clutter in your background making the foreground standout less, as well as distorting at the edges.

The National Garden Scheme has been supporting Parkinson’s UK since 2012, raising over £850,000 to help drive better care, treatments and quality of life for people like David.

Enter the National Garden Scheme competition, in association with BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, by visiting an open garden before 28th August 2018 and submitting your entry via our website. You could  be in with a chance of winning a great selection of prizes worth over £950 from our sponsors, WOLF-Garten, and the winning image of the BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine: Fantastic Flowers category will appear in the magazine’s 2019 calendar.

To view more of David’s work visit www.davidplummerimages.co.uk.

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