Here’s a likely scenario. Sunday morning, you wake up, open the curtains and it’s a lovely sunny day. There’s a high chance that you’ll then say, “let’s go out somewhere and make the most of the nice weather”. You might choose to go and visit a local garden, treat yourself to a cream tea and buy a new plant for your own slice of Eden. If you’re more likely to go mountain biking or to the pub there’s probably not much point reading on.

If you’ve opted for the garden then bear with me. Chances are you’ll take your camera with you, hoping to get a half decent shot or two to remind you of your visit and perhaps show to some like minded gardeners / appreciators. What I’m about to tell you will significantly increase the odds of your photographs being more than half decent.
Let’s discuss the weather first. The sun is beating down, there’s not a cloud in the azure blue sky. Perfect conditions for strolling around admiring luscious lawns and beds bursting with flowers of every hue. Out comes the camera and you’re clicking away. A close up of a cream rose with petals edged with a delicate pink, a bee burrowing into the centre of a foxglove. Perfect! You can’t wait to look at the pictures and you might even use the one of the rose to make a birthday card for someone.
Unfortunately there’s a good chance that you’ll be somewhat disappointed when you load them onto your computer. The camera doesn’t always see what we see. Our eyes are used to evening out the contrasts between light and shade but the camera records faithfully with the result that your picture is likely to have very dark shadows and be lacking lots of the lovely details you remembered seeing.

This happens if the flower is in direct sunlight. Ideally you should find one that is in the shade or use the shade of your own body. I tried a couple of options with the hellebore to demonstrate the difference.

Both the above shots are better than the original one, with less deep shadows and the intensity of the pink petals and green leaves works very well.
Let’s look now at flowers photographed in shade – ones you might have overlooked at the time because they didn’t seem as attractive as the ones lit by the sun. The light is much more even and the colours are more saturated and intense. Petal and stamen details are not hidden in shadow. Of course it’s sods law that the most photogenic flowers in the whole garden were the ones in bright sunlight!
But I hope I’ve made my point. Direct sunlight is not great for photographing flowers in close up. But you’ll be pleased it hear that it is good for photographing garden scenes – just make sure the sun is off to one side or behind you – not directly in front!
All these pictures were taken at Bluebell Cottage Gardens, which opens 30th March 2011.
By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I’d love to hear your comments too!

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