Renovation & Design


How to get great garden photos

Nice closeup of New Guinea Impatiens. The photo below shows too much dirt and captures few details of the plant itself.
Photo of salvia taken with a point-and-shoot camera, which does not easily produce a blurred-out background. Below, photo of salvia taken
Photo of peach coloured geranium taken with an aperture of F16. Note the greater focus.
Get close to your subject! This photo captures the plant's delicate beauty.

HOW many photos do you take of your garden each summer? If you're like me, your photos number in the hundreds. Once in a while, we take the perfect photo, post it on the fridge or even frame it. During the winter, our garden photos remind us of the summer to come.

Damien Bilinsky, manager of information and communication for Don's Photo, shares some great photography tips in today's column.

Next week, Ursula Neufeld, a talented mosaic artist, will discuss effective use of art in the garden.

-- Colleen Zacharias


GARDENERS snap hundreds of photos in their gardens, hoping to capture their fleeting beauty. One of the great ways to record summer at its best with your digital camera is to take close-up, or macro, photos. With a few simple techniques, you can get quite extraordinary results.

First, get close to your subject. Flowers are normally at ground level, so bend down to take the picture. The photo of New Guinea Impatiens, taken from a standing up position, is not a particularly attractive one -- too much dirt! Get on your knees, or if you are feeling particularly adventurous, lie flat on the ground to get as physically close to your subject as you can. What a difference -- all of the plant's delicate beauty is now captured in detail!

Second, find your close-up setting on your camera. It is the one that looks like a tulip. If you are using the close-up setting, you are telling the camera that you want to focus on something closer to your lens than normal.

In general, the closest you can focus in automatic mode is 60 centimetres. However, in close-up mode, you can get much closer. How close? Well, the minimum focusing distance will vary from camera to camera, but some point and shoot cameras can focus as close as one cm.

Next, we need to focus. Focus plays an essential role in close-up photography. To determine if your subject is in focus, push your shutter button down half way. (The shutter button is the one you press to take the picture).

If you push the shutter button down half way, the camera will give you some indication that your image is in focus. It might be a green square, brackets that change color or something as simple as a green dot. If you have your camera handy, try it. Push the shutter down half way and watch what happens.

If you push the button too far, you will take a picture. In close-up photography, put your camera in the close-up mode, and get close. How close can you physically get your camera to your subject and have the camera focus properly? If you are too close, you will not receive your in-focus confirmation. If that happens, release your finger from the shutter button, move the camera back slightly and try again. Repeat the process until you find your minimum focusing distance and the camera provides an in focus confirmation.

Gardeners will sometimes ask, "I see all of these great pictures where the plant is in focus, but the background is blurred. How do I do that with my point-and-shoot camera?"

Keeping the subject in focus while blurring out the background is called controlling the depth of field. Inside every camera lens is a diaphragm which opens and closes. The opening of this lens diaphragm is called the aperture, and it is measured in F Stops. You may have seen these numbers in your pictures.

The blurring out of the background is referred to as a shallow depth of field. In order to achieve shallow depth of field, you need large lens openings.

In terms of F stops, the smaller the number, the larger the opening. These large lens openings, or F stops, are one of the major factors in blurring out the background. F1.4 or F1.8 are ideal settings.

The photo showing a close-up of a single peach-colored geranium was taken with an aperture of F1.8. While the flower is clear and sharp, everything else is blurred. Now look at the photo of the geranium taken with an aperture of F16. Much more is in focus at F16.

The problem is point and shoot lenses do not have the capability to have apertures of F1.4. Most point-and-shoot cameras will only have a maximum aperture of F2.8.

But there is another problem here as well. The smaller the camera sensor you are using, the greater the depth of field. Since the sensor in a point-and-shoot camera is physically smaller than one in a full-sized digital single lens reflex (DSLR), even if the aperture F stop settings are the same, the image taken with a point-and-shoot camera has a greater depth of field and cannot blur out the background.

The photo of salvia showing a blurred background was taken with a DSLR at F2.8.

The next one was taken with a point-and- shoot camera at F2.8.

So while many point-and-shoot cameras are smaller, lighter and easier to use, they have a very difficult time producing images with a shallow depth of field (blurred out background). If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, and want to have this effect, here are some things you can try:

If you have control over your aperture settings, choose the smallest number you can (2.8 or 3.5).

If you do not have an aperture setting, try using the close-up setting. The camera will try and choose the largest aperture (smallest number) the camera can.

Get physically as close to your subject as you can, ensuring that your subject is still in focus. Try using your wide angle. Zooming can close the aperture down and increase your minimum focusing distance.

Damian Bilinsky is an expert Trainer and Educator for Don's Photo. With over 14 years of photographic experience, he encourages you to contact him with your questions or problems


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