Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Category Archives: Garden and Plant Photography

A beginner’s guide to garden photography

I found this useful article in The Telegraph

The International Garden Photographer of the Year competition is now open for entries. What could make your picture a winner?

Britain is seeing a surge in amateur garden photography. Over the past decade, the hobby has flourished and now has a cult-like following.

The growing talent and quality of photographs means garden photography competitions are inundated with exceptional entries. One leading competition is the International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY), which receives more than 20,000 entries.

“We’re looking for images that are absolutely special,” says Clive Nichols, one of the founders of the competition and a judge. “Not just technically, but also in terms of what they show. To win it, you really have to have a standout image.”

Philip Smith, managing director of the competition, has some practical advice (see overleaf) if you are looking to improve your garden photography. His favourite IGPOTY winners from previous years are shown here.


How do you plan a shoot?

What is the best light to shoot in?

Which colours work best together?

How do you compose a shot?

What is the ideal time of day to shoot your garden?

These are basic questions answered here follow the link for further advice on becoming a better plant and garden photographer

Photography Courses For 2015

well we have done it again, created a new course to get you making better pictures. It has the most unwieldy title because we couldn’t think of anything better, sorry.

Basics of Landscape, Travel, Flower and Black and White Digital Photography

The course is based on our observations that these are the main subject areas along with portraiture, (which is covered in our separate Portrait Photography course), that interest our students. Each session we look at one of the four subject areas.

This course is aimed at students who already have a good understanding of how to use their cameras. There will be no instruction on camera use therefore it might be worthwhile taking our Understanding Your DSLR course first if you tend to use the fully auto mode when photographing. All areas of photography rely on technical and visual skills and although there will be references to camera use and composition there will be no in depth discussion of these areas and if you do not understand basic compositional methods our Composition In Photography course would be a great asset to you. Get full details here


We now have our course schedule sorted out for the next term, here are the dates

Understanding Your DSLR Camera Evening Class £85 Start Dates: 26.01.2015;  11.03.2015

Understanding Your DSLR Camera Saturday Morning Class £85 Start Date: 07.03.2015

1 Day Understanding Your DSLR Camera £95 Dates:  01.02.2015; 01.03.2015; 29.03.2015

Intermediate Photography £97 Start Date 26.02.2015

Flash Photography £85 Start date 05.02.2015

Understanding Lightroom £85 Start Date 03.02.2015

Introduction to Photoshop and PS Elements £97 Start Date 25.02.2015

Composition In Photography – Seeing Pictures £85 Start Date 03.02.2015

Portrait Photography £85 Start Date 10.03.2015

Basics of Landscape, Travel, Flower and B&W Photography Start Date 09.03.2015  £85


The poppies at the Tower of London

On the BBC site we found these images of perhaps one of the most emotive memorials associated with WW1 as expressed in this anniversary year

Nearly four million people are expected to have visited an installation at the Tower of London to mark the centenary of the start of World War One by 12 November.

Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red by ceramic artist Paul Cummins has proven so popular there have been calls for it to be extended.

London Mayor Boris Johnson is among those to have suggested the dismantling of the installation, due to start the day after Armistice Day, could be postponed. Thousands of people have also signed an e-petition calling for the poppies to remain.

To allow as many people as possible to see the installation, the hours that the site will be illuminated will be extended. From Friday, the poppies will be lit from 04:30 GMT until dawn and then from dusk until midnight.






See all the images here

Extreme flower photography

From Digital Camera World comes this easy and very effective tutorial on how to magically improve your flower photography



Water is a wonderful subject to photograph. The possibilities are endless, whether you’re using a slow shutter speed to create a zen-like stillness or a super-fast exposure to capture the action of falling drops. Here, we’ve given both water and flower photography a twist, resulting in flower photography that really makes a splash.

See the full tutorial here, it really is very easy

here is another extreme flower photography project for you

Frozen flower photography: the perfect rainy day photography project

9 creative photo ideas to try in June

From The Digital Camera World site we find these encouragements. As part of our ongoing series to help you get more creative with your digital camera, each month we publish some fun, seasonal, creative photo ideas to help inspire your imagination. Along with some amazing images, we’ve also provided some quick photography tips by both amateur and professional photographers who are experts in these fields.

We’re kicking off June with a slew of fun projects like black and white animal portraits, butterflies, abstract water and using a few clever tricks from the portrait photographer’s handbook to photograph your food, among many more


Landscape photography is a lot nicer at this time of year: it’s warmer, and you can always have a go at shooting during the longer dusks if you can’t face getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning.

That said, it’s well worth making the effort to get up if you can. There is something really magical, even spiritual, about dawn light – and hardly anyone else is around. Make 2014 the year that you really think about light.

A good start would be to download an app that tells you the position of the sun – a good one to try is the Photographer’s Ephemeris.

That done, try to think about light in more creative ways. Shooting into the light can generate interesting images, but try to put the sun behind an object (such as a big tree or rock) to reduce flare.

You want to avoid blown-out highlights in the sky as much as possible. A good way of using strong sunlight is to turn a strong graphic element into a silhouette. Reduce exposure compensation by -1 for a stronger effect.

Shooting landscapes is a good way to practise manual-focus skills, as landscapes are usually pretty static! If you’re not sure whether you’ve focussed properly, turn on Live View on your rear screen and pick an area to focus on, say about one third into the scene.

Live View should enable you to magnify this area without needing to change the lens’ focal length; once the area looks sharp in Live View, you’re good to go.

SEE MORE: Live View mode – how to use it on any camera

Using a narrower aperture and placing your camera on a tripod will help to ensure front-to-back sharp shots.

If you are experimenting with slower shutter speeds, maybe to create milky water or interesting effects in moving grass, make sure you aren’t on Auto ISO – you want to stick to a low ISO to keep shutter speed down.

See all 9 suggestions here


Bluebell photography: when, where and how to take creative spring pictures

Bluebells, that beautiful blue haze, that wonderful slightly purple shimmer, what colour is it? Well for years I took pictures of bluebells, changing film types, using filters and since digital trying different white balance settings, over exposing, under exposing, trying everything to replicate that hard to describe colour. Well here is a tutorial on how to get it right, found on Digital Camera Magazine

The time for bluebell photography is just around the corner. In this tutorial we explain when to take pictures of bluebells, where to find them and how to set up your camera for the best results

You have to be watchful at this time of year, because it’s almost time to go down to the woods – not for the teddy bears’ picnic, of course, but for something much more inspiring than that… it’s time for bluebells!

Their wonderful carpets of blue and green are one of the signs of spring, and make for fantastic photos.

Depending on seasonal temperatures and how far south you are, there’s a short window from about mid-April to the end of May during which you can see bluebells. With this year’s mild winter in the UK they may be early, so don’t miss them!

One of the joys of spring in Britain is walking through a woodland to enjoy the birdsong, smell the scented air, see the wildlife and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere.

An established beech wood is best for photographs, as you get tall, straight trees with little undergrowth and not many offshoots or branches protruding from trunks.

You ideally want an open aspect to the east or west side of the woods where you can shoot towards a low sun that’s not too strong.  



9 creative photo ideas to try in March

Digital Camera World has a few ideas to get you shooting now the weather is starting to improve.


Creative Photo Ideas for March: 01 Shoot a dewdrop flower refraction

This is one of those shots that many macro photographers attempt, but few master. But with the right conditions and some essential kit, beautiful refraction images are within everyone’s reach.

“You need a minimum of a 1:1 macro lens with a set of extension tubes so you are shooting at 2:1 magnification or higher plus a flash set up,” says retired PhD microbiologist and celebrated macro photographer Brian Valentine.

To achieve this sort of magnification, 68mm of extension tubes fitted to a 100mm macro lens should do the trick.

“Shoot in Manual with exposure settings of around 1/200 sec at f/8-f/11, ISO somewhere between 100 and 400,” Brian continues, “and place the flower around one flower diameter behind the drops.”

For instance, if you’re shooting a daisy that’s 2cm in diameter, the optimum position is around 2cm from the dewdrops. Check the position through the viewfinder; if you need to adjust it, remember that the flower is upside-down in the dewdrop.

If you want both the droplets and the refracted flower to be in focus, you’ll need to use focus stacking.

This involves taking several pictures, nudging the camera backwards and forwards between each frame to cover all the points that you want to appear sharply focused.

“Shooting a sequence to get a good focus stack is the hardest part,” admits Brian.

Find out more here


One Day Plant and Garden Photography Workshop – RPS

We used to run our own Plant and Garden Photography Workshop based at Waterperry now we generally recommend RPS courses for this, or even better RHS courses if you are serious about plant photography when they are available

One Day Plant and Garden Photography Workshop – RPS.

One Day Plant and Garden Workshop

Plant and Garden.jpg


One Day Plant and Garden Photography Workshop

05 April 2014

10:00 – 17:00

Mells, Somerset
The Walled Garden
Selwood St
United Kingdom
BA11 3PN

View map →

RPS Member £130.00
Non RPS Member £155.00

Information pack (PDF, 44.7 KB) →

Book online →


A not to be missed opportunity to work alongside two professional photographers Jason Ingram and Paul Debois.


The group will be small and while shooting this will be split to enable the tutors to work with people on an individual basis. This workshop is aimed at those who love plant and garden photography and/or those who are thinking of entering the profession.

10am – 11am
Introduction from tutors, tips and tricks, what’s in the bag and macro photography – invaluable information on what you need from the bare minimum to the hi-tech, whilst being given an insight into the tutors’ professional workflows’.

11am -11.30am
Guided walk around the garden with the tutors to identify different points of interest.

11.30am – 2pm
Shooting time with guidance from your tutors

Lunch (can be taken any time between 12pm – 2pm)

2pm – 3pm
Down loading images – The importance of storing your images correctly, how and why. You will also down load and save your images for discussion.

3pm – 5pm
Critique, an informal, friendly discussion on some of your selected images and a chance to ask questions.

Camera, tripod, a spare memory card and appropriate clothing, spare batteries. Food is available to purchase at the garden tearoom, local pub and shops or please bring a packed lunch

You will need to know the basic functions of your camera.

Times: 10am – 5pm
Address: The Walled Garden at Mells, Rectory Garden, Selwood Street, Mells BA113PN
Map: http://goo.gl/maps/0khmO
Parking: There is limited parking at the venue but plenty of on street parking.
Website: http://thewalledgardenatmells.co.uk

– See more at: http://www.rps.org/events/2014/april/05/one-day-plant-and-garden-photography-workshop#sthash.5wnNgy9N.rBUbctsC.dpuf

Royal Horticultural Society photographic competition 2013 – the winning pictures

The annual RHS photography competition attracts stunning images of flora and fauna – here are some of the winning pictures from 2013, from a shy mole to a starling in the fog and some towering foxgloves



This extraordinary photograph of a bee flying between towering, pink foxgloves at Great Dixter Gardens has won £1,000 and the coveted title of RHS Photographer of the Year 2013 for Heather Buckley of Brighton. The photo also won the ‘Plants’ category, which carries another prize of £350 for Heather.



Jacky Parker’s photograph of an anemone de caen won first prize in the details category.


Mateusz Piesiak from Poland was named young photographer of the year for this picture of a starling.

You can see the rest of the winning entries here

I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed by the selection chosen, what do you think?

Flower Photography

One thing that has become clear from the years of teaching photography is that many, many people want to take pictures of flowers. They are beautiful, colourful, delicate and last only a short time and do not answer back, be difficult, require extensive walking and can be readily available. That said it got to a point on one of our more advanced courses when I realised that half the class were only photographing flowers that I had to ban them as a subject. It was not that I dislike pictures of flowers but just that once the techniques have been mastered the main challenge is finding beautiful blooms to photograph. The impact on the class was initially concern, what were they going to photograph but once they started looking they found many things that captured their interest.

This article on Lightstalking by  Izabela Korwel explains some of the basics of flower photography. Check out Iza’s amazing macro photography on her blog,. 

All of this article is useful, I would add that most zoom lenses  that come as a basic kit with a dslr camera can close focus to about  8 inches and are great for macro/close focus work. If you want to explore this with your zoom lens put it in manual focus and set the focus ring to it’s minimum focus distance (usually when the ring is extended furthest out) then put the camera to your eye and move the camera backwards and forwards until something close comes in focus, this will be about 6 – 8 inches. Using manual focus with macro flower photography is a better way to work that auto focus because you get to decide what is in sharpest focus rather than the camera.

Here is the start of the article:

Flowers are the easy subjects to come by and to photograph, even close to home. You can go to local park or find a flower bed downtown or at the mall. You can visit a botanical garden, there is one in every major city. You can ask the neighbours if you can photograph in their garden. You can also just go the flower shop and buy potted or cut flowers, and set them up in your living room.

The easiest way, as I discovered this year, is to plant small flower garden in front of your house. Even for the sole purpose of having a photographic subject handy, they do not require that much work, especially if you choose the local wild flowers. The diversity in types and colors will help keeping you interested and returning often to add to the collection of images. Each day, the flowers will looks different, some will be already dying, and some will just start to bloom. There are new and different photos to be taken each and every day.

Click Here: How to Take Incredible Photographs of Flowers