Good Garden Photography

The first book in the PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop

Winner of the Garden Writer’s Association 2015 Gold Award as the Best Overall Book published in 2014 !

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Hunting for photos is one of the great joys of garden photography, involving the distillation of a grand garden experience down to images that tell a story of how the garden makes you, the photographer, feel. When your photos tell stories, when they reveal not just the garden but what you have to say about it, they are “good” photos.

Gardens are natural subjects for photography: the complex beauty created by the gardener, working closely with Mother Nature, can, in the moment you are viewing it, be high art. As a photographer, you want to share your enthusiasm for the garden, you have your camera with you, and you know the beauty of the moment will pass.

This book assumes we all love gardens; so if that’s the case, good photos should come easily for us, right? Well, if you are excited by what you see, snapshots should come easily, but they may only serve as memory jogs. Snapshots are grab shots; they only document a first impression, which may well be wonderful, but they seldom illustrate a photographer’s style or tell a specific story

If you are fascinated by the arrangement of stones in a path, point your camera at the path. If you are captivated by the delicate shape of a flower, fill the frame with it. If you discover a secret garden, use your camera to show what makes it private. Make sure your viewer sees what you see.

This first book of The PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop is “Good Garden Photography.” Later books will offer specific tools and exercises for practicing your craft, but here I want you to appreciate the task of taking a “good” garden photo.

A good photo is easy to look at and tells a story—a story the photographer wants to tell. It is made with intention, directing your viewer to see what you, the photographer, saw. It is not a snapshot; it is about illustrating, informing, and inspiring others with what you saw and felt.

“Good Garden Photography” is broken into six chapters that are described below (photo1.1 to 1.6). Each lesson will build on the previous; by the end of the workshop, you will be armed with fundamental concepts that should allow you to go out and make meaningful garden photographs.

Each lesson is intended as a pep talk, as if we were together and you have an assignment for a workshop, something to think about when you are working. I hope you will refer back to the lessons from time to time, if you should ever get stuck and need some reminders.

Most importantly, shoot lots of pictures. Analyze them and learn from them. I hope we might work together in a face-to-face workshop sometime, someplace; in the interim, the best teacher is experience. Do have fun.

The book is available as an on-line workshop with Comments in the Learning Center, as a complete e-Book in the Store or each lesson is available as individual iBooks in iTunes or Google Play.

Lesson 1.1:

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 Composition 101: Fill the Frame.  Begin by thinking of your camera viewfinder as a frame, wherein you compose your picture. The core objective of any good photo is to fill the entire frame with purpose. Do not waste space with elements that contribute nothing to your story. Use the camera viewfinder (or your crop tool later) and fill the frame.


Lesson 1.2 

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Composition and Balance.  Once we establish the basic concept of filling the frame, we need a few basic ideas of how to compose within it. The “rule of thirds” will underpin many ways to achieve a good weight and balance in the shapes and spaces we see, as we use colors, textures, lines, and focal points to make photos interesting.


Lesson 1.3 


Finding the Light.  Understanding light is key to getting good photos. Light fundamentally affects color renditions in garden photography; here, we will learn how to find the best light for garden subjects.


Lesson 1.4 

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Garden Appreciation.  A good garden photo has a purpose. Learn to appreciate what makes a garden work. The beauty you see is not an accident; don’t let your photos be accidental.


Lesson 1.5 

Valentine wall - Succulents in bright light against white stucco wall

Style: Provocation and Intrigue.  A good garden photo should invite the viewer to look closer, provoking a greater sense of what the photographer sees. This can be done with unexpected elements—even whimsical ones—as you develop your own style.


Lesson 1.6


Tell your Story. A good photo invites a story; it is not a mere grab shot. How does the garden make you, the photographer, feel? Capture the essence of what you see in the garden and be conscious of what you are doing.

To expand upon the information provided in each of the lessons in the book, you will find links to other posts on a topic at the end of each lesson.

This book, and the others in The PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop series, was first published in the Learning Center at where subscribers have access to additional content and on-going lessons.

I hope you will join our community and show us how you celebrate plants.

– Saxon Holt