The first lesson in all my garden photography workshops is to “think like a camera.” Your camera is a tool, which can only take a picture when you point it at something and trigger the shutter. You are in control of the composition.

Whether you have a big megapixel SLR camera or just a smart phone, your pictures will improve as soon as you think about what the camera is seeing—versus what you are seeing. Use the camera frame to fill your photograph with only those elements that tell your story.

In Section Two of The PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop, we will discuss tools and concepts, with lessons intended to help you compose your image—somewhat universal artistic concepts that most photography instructors cover, but here illustrated with garden images.

I hope you will look at these lessons as individual workshops. Each presents ideas that you can work on when in the garden with your camera. While nothing beats hands-on instruction and feedback in a live workshop in a beautiful garden, the lessons here are exactly the themes I ask my students to consider when we are together.

We will assume you love gardens, are inspired by something you see, have a story to tell, and need tips to put the photo together. In Section Three, we will talk about how to find the story to tell when you are overwhelmed by the possibilities, how to think like a gardener, and how to find your own voice as a garden photographer. For now, let’s think like a camera.

The essence of a good photograph is filling the entire camera frame with meaningful information in an engaging way. In the first Section, “Good Garden Photography” we covered some basic concepts of composition, especially the rule of thirds using shape and balance. Now let’s work on specific tools.

These lessons will be coming every two weeks.  Think about them as assigments and use the time between lessons to take pictures, lots of pictures.  Learn by doing.

Lesson 2.1


Framing. In lesson one, we use techniques to juxtapose elements within a composition to frame key elements and force your viewer to see your perspective.


Lesson 2.2

holt_901_12.tifFocal Points. Every photo should have a focal point, a spot within the frame where your story is told. The rule of thirds helps place those “sweet spots.”


Lesson 2.3

holt_1002_025.CR2 Leading Lines. Find lines in the garden that will establish balance and will draw the eye into and around your photograph. Curves and triangles offer lines that give a composition movement.


Lesson 2.4

Meadow as rain garden seen through trees edging California naturalistic gardenPoint of View. Where will you set up the camera to take the picture you think you see? The exact point of view—slightly to one side of your subject or perhaps down low—is critical to a good composition.


Lesson 2.5

holt_714_0581.jpg Space and Shape. The camera sees in two dimensions. The shapes and spaces created within the four edges of the frame need to be balanced. Those shapes often include negative space that may result when the three dimensions of real life are reduced down to only two in a photo.


Lesson 2.6

holt_903_2070.CR2Details and Vignettes. A camera is a great tool that helps you distill overall impressions into a distinct capture—what we really see. Practice finding the photo within the photo.


These lessons build on each other but stand alone as workshop topics. When you are finished you can always go back and pick any lesson to give yourself an assignment. Shoot lots of images. Learn by doing.