Each year we receive thousands of photos entered into our Garden Photo Contest. The winning photos are, of course, outstanding, while others are nice but nothing too special. And, unfortunately, some entries have obvious flaws. Don't let that $1,000 Grand Prize go to someone else this year—follow these tips to increase your chances of taking a winning garden photo!
Here are 6 tips to consider before you shoot or enter:
1. KNOW YOUR CAMERA
Yes, it’s called a point-and-shoot model, but even the most “automatic” versions come with settings that you can adjust for maximum effectiveness. Understand how your camera works and get the settings right. Know if you need to use flash or not. Turn off the function that marks photos with date/time stamps when you’re shooting for a competition.
2. SEEK NATURAL LIGHT
The bright light of midday is not the best for photography because it causes shadows and glare, and in many cases it transforms the appearance of your lovely plants into two-dimensional plastic. Consider shooting in “the golden hour”—the time when the sun is closest to the horizon. (There are actually two golden hours a day: one at sunrise, the other at sunset—so morning people and night owls have equal opportunitis!)
3. TAKE MANY SHOTS
To achieve that one-moment-in-time kind of shot you’re going to need to snap many photos. If you remember the good old days when film was used rather than digital photo cards, you can be glad that you won’t be wasting anything by snapping many photos of the same flower, plant or landscape. Simply review and delete the ones that aren’t “the” one.
4. CONSIDER PERSPECTIVE
As a corollary to taking many shots, be flexible and consider many different perspectives for your photo. “Perspective” in photography has to do with the perceptions of depth, spatial relationship and dimension among objects in the photo. Our simple suggestion to help you understand perspective in photography is to think of perspective as the angle from which you’re photographing. Shoot from above, get down at ground level and shoot straight on, shoot upward, get extremely close. Trying different perspectives will help you to get the best shot possible.
5. UNDERSTAND THE RULE OF THIRDS
Most pleasing, beautiful, stunning, amazing, you-fill-in-the-adjective photos or pieces of art are composed using the rule of thirds. The rule deals with the overall composition of your photo, and where the important objects appear within the field of view. Check out this link to Ultimate Photo Tips for a professional explanation of the rule of thirds (which isn’t really so much a “rule” as a wise suggestion for great pictures).
6. CHECK YOUR BACKGROUND
In situations where you have the ability to control the entire scene you’re shooting, take the time to really see what is in your viewfinder before you begin shooting. Is the neighbor’s trashcan visible? Are there dirty socks on the floor beyond that vase of fresh-cut flowers on your dining room table?
If you don’t have control over the setting while shooting, be very certain to look at your photos with a clear eye before you submit them. Don’t let that ugly car parked next to the public square ruin the shot of the Fourth of July display you want to capture. Perhaps you can crop it out.
BONUS MISCELLANEOUS TIPS:
• Photograph what you love and the love shines through
• Get inspired by other photographers’ work (for starters, visit Rob Cardillo’s site; he is our expert judge for the contest)
• Tell a story with your photo
• Take walks in the neighborhood or the woods for more subjects to photograph
• Visit public gardens and arboretums for amazing (and manicured) displays
DETAILS OF THE 2014 GARDEN PHOTO CONTEST
1. It is FREE to enter the contest
2. The contest deadline for entries is August 15, 2014
3. All entries must be submitted digitally through the contest link
4. Decisions by judges are final
See the full rules and enter here
Big THANK YOU to our contest sponsor Lee Valley Tools!