Nature photography doesn’t have to involve travelling long distances or going to remote locations. Where we live is the ideal place to start. Whether you have a wild garden in the countryside or a small city balcony it is possible to find nature to photograph.
Even short walks around your neighbourhood or local park can provide perfect opportunities. Remember as well, your phone camera is as good as a big posh DSLR. Just get outside in the sunshine and capture what you see.
Ideas for Backyard and Garden Photography
- Go Small, look at the details
- Get Down Low
- Look Up to the Sky
- Focus on one thing
- Pond Life
- Urban Wildlife
Photography Time at Home
It’s not often that we all have so much time to be at home for such long periods with enforced silence and stillness. It is very easy to become stuck in the ‘stuck indoors’ rather than the ‘safe at home’ mindset.
Safe at home lets you explore and use your time to enjoy what you have and discover what is really around you. It is a time to sit in the garden (or on your balcony) and see what passes by. Bird song is amplified without the background drone of traffic and aircraft and with quiet streets and roads once reclusive animals are becoming bolder and more inquisitive.
When you venture out take pictures of what you see. Maybe that roadside tree that you have noticed but never had a chance to look at safely is now an option. I know my drive-by kingfisher spot is now a safe walk and is giving me beautiful encounters.
Getting Started With Garden Nature Photography
To get started your really don’t need anything other than time.
Give yourself time to open your eyes and see what is actually there in your garden. Don’t even have your camera with you in the beginning. Sit and enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and the sounds around you.
When you have started to notice things then you can start to take photographs. Whether you are the mindful one or two photographs type of person or the random snapper it really doesn’t matter.
However, it is worth putting the time in to get beautiful images. They may ‘just’ be garden flowers or insects but they are unique and beautiful in their own way and are as important and stunning as the Big Five in Africa.
Go Small, look at the details
As you sit in your garden don’t just focus on the big items. Look at the smaller details, the pattern of knots in the table, the blossom in the trees, the peeling paint on a door. These can all be photographed and by taking away distractions can become beautiful. I love old weathered wood covered in lichen or rusting metal. In its setting it is noting, but take it on its own and it can become so much more.
In the early and late summer there is also the chance of frost, coating everything in a sparkling white crust. Get outside early and capture those magical moments before the spring warmth takes over.
Get Down Low
This will help take your photograph from nice to amazing. If you stand up to take a photograph you will always be looking down on the flower or plant and this makes it really boring.
However, by getting down low (remember no-one is going to hear or see you attempting to get back up again) you will change the view point.
This will allow you to show the object away from it’s background, isolating it and showing the viewer what you want you want them to see.
Look Up to the Sky
The sky can be amazing if you remember to look up.
During the day there are clouds that become objects if you allow your imagination to wander and as the day comes to an end the sunset over your garden can be as beautiful as any remote cliff top.
Your garden is also the perfect place to photograph the moon and the stars. Light pollution can be an issue in built up areas but the full moon will always beat the light of man.
Your garden is the perfect spot to learning to photograph the night sky as you can get set up in daylight without worry of equipment going missing and once darkness falls you know you are safe and can always nip indoors if you need a brew.
READ MORE: TIPS TO BETTER STAR PHOTOGRAPHY
Focus on one thing
It is so easy to flit from one thing to another but getting good photographs takes focus and time.
Try and keep yourself on track.
Maybe have a day where you just take photographs of the flowers or even just the primroses in your garden.
You may want to focus on a theme such as filling the frame or looking for shadows.
Another option is to just use one camera or lens or setting on your phone.
This can really help to focus what you are looking for and photographing.
The birds in your garden at the moment have one thing on their mind!
The dawn chorus is exploding each morning, amplified by the lack of background vehicles and this means one thing – procreation is what the birds are doing. If you have bird feeders then make sure they are well stocked.
Nesting birds need plenty of fuel and once they are feeding their young a plentiful supply of food can help them immensely. Putting out water and nesting materials can also help attract the birds to your garden.
You don’t need a fancy hide (unless you want one!). Find a window that you can use to take photographs through. Open is best. If you are quiet the birds soon forget you are there any get on with their lives.
If your feeder is near where you park your car then you can always sit in your car and use that as your hide. You are trying to hide your silhouette so any way of doing that will help.
I have a bench a short distance from the feeders with bushes behind. A dark hat and dark clothes allows me to blend in and be ignored by the birds completely.
Watch what your garden birds are doing.
Do they have a routine or a favourite tree that they use as a perch before coming down to the feeder?
Can you use this perch to get photographs away from the feeder?
Birds on a feeder isn’t that exciting but using perches near to the feeder can change the whole photograph.
To photograph insects you just need something to attract them.
Even the smallest backyard can have butterfly and bee friendly plants growing. If you keep these in pots it will allow you to move them with the light and get photographs throughout the day as the light changes and the sun moves.
Butterflies and other insects are very sensitive to movement and light changes. Keeping your distance and moving slowly are skills that you need to master. If a butterfly is disturbed it will flit off but will nearly always return to the same place if you are patient and wait.
As with everything, getting down low and at eye level will allow you to get fantastic photographs of butterflies even with a mobile phone.
Look at the background to ensure there is nothing bright to distract the viewer from the butterfly and move your position if there are streaks of grasses or other plants to cause distraction.
Having a pond in your garden will entice a range of wildlife into your garden beyond the expected frogs, toads and newts.
Birds and mammals will use it for drinking and the plants surrounding it will entice different insects.
To photograph pond life you need to get down to water level. Standing above the water will result in reflections that will hide the wildlife you are trying to photograph.
Lie down in the grass and wait and see who appears.
Gardens are home to a range of mammals and everything from mice and hedgehogs to large deer and badgers can pass through a garden on a regular basis. In some areas the wildlife is bold.
This is especially the case with urban foxes who are bold and brave who make photography easier than the elusive otters that pass through some gardens.
If you want to know who is visiting your garden and when it is worth investing in a trail camera. This can be set up to take photographs whenever the sensor is triggered.
It will show you who is passing through your garden and when so you can then think about how you are going to get photographs.
Once you know who is visiting you can come up with a plan to use props to make your image interesting as well as devising a makeshift hide to make them willing to visit with you in the garden.
Finally the easiest of all garden subject to photograph are the flowers.
They are not disturbed or upset by your presence and you can move around as the light changes to give a different perspective and use the light better. As with everything you need to get down low and photograph them from ground level.
Using a support, either a tripod or a beanbag or even cushion can allow you to get fantastic photographs when the light is low.
Try to think outside of the usual flower portraits.
Can you use the grass in the foreground to give the flower a dreamy appearance or the flower bed behind to act as a colourful backdrop?
Using the light can also give the plant a beautiful black backdrop which makes it really standout.
You don’t need fancy lights, the sun is enough!
A List of Ideas
If you are stuck for ideas then maybe this short list will give you some inspiration of where to start….
- Plain background
- Things in threes
- Fill the frame with colour