As you marvel at the beauty of a flower or the intricacies of a forest, you may wonder how to capture that feeling in a photograph. These plant photography tips will help you take the best photos of plants. You’ll be ready to showcase your garden or share snapshots from your hike in no time!
We’ll go over the basics of photography with plant-specific examples, then suggest a few assignments that you can practice with.
The Basics of Plant Photography
We can’t skip over the basics of good photography when discussing plant photography tips. Even if you’re an experienced photographer, it’s important to pay attention to:
1. Good lighting.
Taking photos of plants inside of a thick forest can lead to dark, grey-green light. If you know how to use this light, great – it can create some beautiful effects! But if you’re less experienced, try to steer clear of gloomy or overly bright photo shoots.
- Use a reflector disc or a clip-on ring light to help light up dim photos. The clip-on lights are great for phones and casual use, while a reflector disc is a bit more of a commitment.
- Use warm lighting for bark and autumn to bring out the warm tones in these photos. A gold reflector disc will really help get that warm coloring. Time your photography sessions around the “golden hour” as the sun sets or rises to get a really beautiful warm hue to your photos.
- Slightly cooler lighting is great for bringing out the green in leaves. You can touch it up later, but getting the lighting right live is generally better. Evenly cloudy days can provide good “cool lighting.”
2. Frame your subject.
Good photos have a main subject (like a flower) that is framed well. That doesn’t mean the flower has to be the center of the photo – in fact, off-center subjects can make for better photos! You can frame your subject with slightly out-of-focus objects on the sides, background, or foreground. As you get more proficient at plant photography, try using light and shadow to frame your subject.
3. Focus on the subject.
Great plant photography will have clear focus on the subject. How sharp that focus is (and how blurred the rest of your photograph is) will depend on the feeling you’re trying to evoke. The portrait mode on iPhones is a great example of blurring a background to throw the subject into clearer focus.
4. Follow the rule of thirds.
This quick rule will help you create balanced photos. The idea is to break your photo into roughly nine squares, with three vertical and three horizontal lines. The theory goes that placing elements of your photo along where lines intersect creates a balanced, pleasing photo. This is a great quick tip, but you can always experiment with other composition setups!
Use Photos to Identify Plants
If you want to learn to identify plants by photo, you have two main options. You can use an app like PlantSnap to identify plants, or you can share the photos with experts online or in-person.
If you go the first route, we’ve already got a pretty big guide on using PlantSnap linked above. If you’d rather deal with an in-person expert, be sure to take several photos of the plant. The algorithm within PlantSnap works off of just a single, well-framed photo. But human experts will generally need:
- Photos from a variety of angles that show the plant’s shape, size, and parts.
- Be sure to frame and light these photos well. Make it clear which plant in frame is the focus.
- Photos of most parts of the plant – flowers and fruits are especially helpful. Avoid photographing damaged parts of the plant if possible.
- Taking photos of different parts of the plant will be more helpful than a bunch of photos of the same leaf.
- Images of the leaf that show vein patterns, shape, and size with a scale (coins are great for this).
- Experts can tell a lot just by the vein pattern and shape of a leaf!
- Information on where the plant was. Be sure to take note of lighting, soil type, and the habitat in general.
- This helps your expert narrow down options further. Some plant species look really similar, so knowing where the plant was is a helpful clue.
It’s often easier to start using an app like PlantSnap, then use an expert if needed to confirm or narrow down on identification.
How to Practice Using These Plant Photography Tips
Here are a few ideas for perfecting your plant photography technique:
- Take close-ups of textures. The long leaves of a corn stalk or the whorls of a succulent are great for this.
- Use a wide-angle lens to take artsy upwards shots of trees.
- Photograph water droplets on plants. Try using lighting and focus points to really bring out the droplets.
- Use a macro lens to photograph pollinators on flowers.
- Try using backlighting and silhouettes of trees or leaves for dramatic shots.
- Take photos of autumn colors of bark using the golden hour – don’t let yourself use any tools or editing to create a warm glow in the photo.
- Take photos of just one or two leaves floating on water – create a clean, “quiet” shot.
Those are just a few ideas meant to help you put the plant photography tips to use. Practice using your eye and your phone to perfect the lighting and framing of your photos.