Sunset Plants

When I have an assignment to shoot plants, it can be a challenge to find a neutral background.  Shooting for the plant development team at Sunset Plants in the demonstration gardens at Sunset publishing, there is no lack of backgrounds.  The problem is finding a plain background.

White flowers are always difficult to photograph.  It is hard to get good detail in white without adding gray, so for their new white Agapathus I looked for a neutral background and decided on this variegated Pittosporum.

Sunset Plants

It became quite a nice shot when we added more plants, but what really go my eyeball poppin’ was found on the other side of the Pittosporum hedge – a dark, dark Aeonium.

Sunset Plants

Makes me almost dizzy just to look at it.  Hardly neutral.

More on photographing plant combinations in Details and Vignettes, chapter 6 inThink Like A Camera and available as its own iBook lesson for $1.99 in iTunes of Google Play.


  1. Saxon your first photo here demonstrates something I struggle with when shooting full garden shots, and that is the amount of the image that is in focus. I admit that i am not always diligent about using my tripod, but I’ts not so much the sharpness itself , but the distribution of sharpness over the entire image. I shoot aperture priority , and am using a kit 18-55 lens with a Nikon D7000 , which is not full frame , but I think just a level or two below. I have pondered investing in a prime lens , but I really think I am not choosing the correct aperture to get more of the frame in focus. I am confident you used a tripod, but could you share the time of day and the settings you used to take this shot ?
    Any advice appreciated !

    • Kathy – I will deal with these sorts of camera / lens setting in book 4 of the PhotoBotanic Workshop Camera and Computer but am not going to tell you to wait. 🙂

      This is classic aperture setting issue – the smaller the aperture the more depth of field (depth of focus) you will have; but in order to make a good exposure, the camera must use a slower shutter speed to compensate for the small aperture. However a slower shutter speed can mean camera shake and loss of sharpness. This is why the tripod is so important for depth of field – it allows you to use a small aperture with a slow shutter – the camera will not move during the long exposure.
      You can mitigate the problem of camera shake when hand holding the camera by raising the ISO setting, making the camera ‘faster’. This adds noise to the file but unless you enlarge the photo a lot, is not very noticeable until the ISO goes above 400.

      That lens you use is a general purpose wide angle lens which, as a wide angle, usually has pretty good depth of field if you can use at least f:11. Even so, the best depth of field will always be setting the aperture all the way down. Back in the day of the great black and white landscape photographers (Adams, Weston, etc) they called themselves the f:64 club – equal to the smallest aperture on many view camera lenses.

      The photo that opens this post was shot with a telephoto zoom at 100mm with an aperture of f:22 for 1/2 second at 3 o’clock on an overcast afternoon. I like to use the moderate telephoto whenever I can back up far enough. More in the lens section….


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.