Succulents are some of the most graphic plants, they should be easy to photograph.  That’s what I thought when I worked on the Hardy Succulents book, but I quickly realized I would often be working in very bright light while visiting gardens around the country.

Cover Hardy Succulents book

Bright, sunny light creates hard shadows and overexposed highlights that a camera sensor cannot fully register.  Occasionally the sharp contrasts create interesting patterns, but usually we would rather see the pattern of the leaves not the shadows.

If you can’t wait for soft lighter (or, if it is in a container, move it to the shade) use a transparent diffusion disc held over the plant.

Before and After Slider

These diffusers, which you can think of as parachute cloth stretched in a frame, are available in any good photo store and fold up for portability.  To soften the light of the Agave I only need an 18″ disc.


A have made a selection of my favorite succulent photos into large canvas prints, found in The Green Wall gallery.  Agave attenuate ‘Nova’ is $500 for 21″ x 32″.

Agave attenuata 'Nova' gray foliage spineless succulent

Agave attenuata ‘Nova’ gray foliage spineless succulent