Lights, Camera, Action! Photographing Your Miniature Garden

Miniature Garden with Pond

This shot works because it’s framed on both sides with plants, the fence at the back directs the eye back into the shot and the fingers in the shot provide contrast, action and interest. All the important bits are in focus.

Lights, Camera, Action! Photographing Your Miniature Garden

I must admit I bought the book for the photographs.

I’ve been a lurking fan of David Perry for about two years now. David is a photographer who loves “to have his hands in the dirt and his nose buried in bunches of flowers.” Why wouldn’t I lurk?

Miniature Garden with Pond

The same garden, but the viewer is behind the furniture. Not as exciting, is it? It’s lacking a defined focal point.

David is the photographer behind this delicious book, The 50 Mile Bouquet, Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers by Debra Prinzing, released earlier this year by St. Lynn’s Press. And I must admit, I have yet to get through to the end of the book because his photos inspire the heck out of me! I get an eyeful and I have to stop, grab my camera and go out to the garden to play.

Another source of inspiration has been Kate Baldwin, who helped with some great photos for my book, Gardening in Miniature, from Timber Press. Kate’s specialty is photographing food and, although she shoots just about everything else, it’s her food shots that I pay attention to. These types of photos are taken close up, very detailed and are always staged perfectly. Doesn’t that sound like a way to shoot our miniature garden photos?

So, I have touched on a few fun photography tips in this blog several years ago but this time, let’s get more specific. After all, when the garden is done for the season what do you have to show for it until next year? Your photos! AND with our Annual Miniature Garden Contest, you’ll want to put your best shot forward.

Lights!

  1. Use the natural light outside. Overcast days are perfect to avoid hard shadows and glaring sunspots.
  2. Early morning light to create a bit of magic even if the sun is out. The late afternoon sunlight would create a similar situation without the morning dew.
  3. Got sun? Try using the full shade from the house, fence or a building.
  4. Got more sun? Create shade by using a piece of cardboard or an umbrella to shade the garden or pot.
  5. Creating your own shade? You may have to increase the brightness/exposure in your camera, or in your computer, in iPhoto, or whatever photography software that you use.
Miniature Gardens

Bright light combined with too many things going on in the background really distracts from this shot. I cropped most of the background out in order to use it, but I cut the tree-tops out too.

[Speaking of Software]

      1. Lots of options come with whatever computer you buy, like iPhoto for Mac or Photo Gallery for Windows.
      2. Most cameras come with a basic photo editing that can be loaded it into your computer via disk.
      3. Save your original photo first, make a copy of it to fool around with. If you really mess up, make another copy of the original and start again.
      4. Don’t be shy about fooling around in these programs – they are made for you to play! Get in there and make mistakes, click on everything to see what it does, follow the tutorials. Enhance the photos by sharpening, lightening, cropping, or even erase something in the shot.
      5. Leave the original on the camera to be sure it’s safe if the photograph is a special one.
Tiny Miniature Gardens

This shot didn’t work out – the background was just too busy despite the cute birdhouse placed behind them. There are no defined edges on the left and right sides.

Tiny Miniature Gardens

Reconfigured backdrop and a tighter arrangement makes a better picture. The hand is in there to tell the scale.

Camera!

  1. These days, the camera on your phone can be all you need but if you would like to go a little deeper, get a “real” camera. They have come a long way in the last couple of years and they no longer cost an arm and a leg.
  2. Most of the cameras today have pre-settings or ‘scene settings’ that you can play around with. Using the same garden, experiment with ‘close-up,’ ‘museum,’ ‘food,’ and any other settings that might spark an idea.
  3. Take advantage of the automatic settings too and test those out.
  4. Keep your testing consistent. If you are playing with the different camera settings, take the same picture of the same garden. If you take different pictures with different settings you won’t be able to gauge what works and what doesn’t. Test, test, test.
  5. Once you find a setting that works for you, then take a variety of shots of your garden from several different angles and see what works best.
Miniature Garden BBQ

I thought having Steve barbecuing in the background would be fun but it was just distracting from the main garden shot.

Action!

  1. Get down with it! That is, get down to the level of the garden when aiming your camera. If the garden is in a pot, get down level with the pot so you are looking straight at it, then raise up the camera to get everything into view – then click!
  2. Pretend that you are the person in that miniature garden and you’re seeing the garden through their eyes. Move the camera to the left and to the right to get more angles.
  3. Use a tripod or rest the camera on a box, or anything to steady the camera. You’ll be glad you did and no, you cannot hold it steady enough for a detailed shot.
  4. It is fun to click away and get the feel of being a real photographer but first, get your settings correct, then test a couple of the first shots by loading them up in your computer to see how they look on a bigger monitor. That tiny screen on your phone or camera is very deceiving and your photo may look in focus only to find out later that it’s not. Don’t be fooled – load up your test shots to your computer to see them in a bigger screen so you can scrutinize them before you click, click, click away.
  5. Back up your favorite photos to a jump-drive, CD, DVD, iCloud, whatever you have but do it. Don’t bother backing up photos that didn’t come out right. Keep all your “glory shots” in the same album or folder. You’ll be glad to have a clean album of great shots without having to sift through the lesser shots for your next show, tell and brag session!
Tiny Miniature Garden BBQ

The tiny details get lost in a big photograph. By gently placing a hand in the shot, it directs the eyes to the important details. That wee BBQ and chair is HO scale from the model train world.

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Miniature Gardening with Two Green Thumbs

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11 Comments »

  1. edremsrola said

    Oh my goodness, miniature gardens within your miniature garden! I knew you used tiny pots with tiny plants as accesories in your mini-gardens, but I hadn’t notides the tiny pots, with tiny plants and tiny hardscape materials before. Well done! :^)

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  2. edremsrola said

    Notides? Is that a word? I meant, “noticed”. :^)

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