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Garden Photography: Opening Your Mind

this is what 7am looks from our back door this it any wonder why i drag my camera along as i walk through the garden ?

As a longtime portrait photographer, nature photography has always been a fun challenge for me...particularly because I don't - and have zero intention to - own a tripod. I had one while attending photography school and they Drove.Me.Crazy.

Yes, I know they can help with long exposures or super heavy long lenses, but I've been doing this long enough to know that many photographers these days who regularly shoot with tripods often have two major Achilles heels:

  • Perspective: They won't disconnect from it and move around and look at their subjects from different angles, heights, etc. Over and over, pictures are bland

  • Digital Reliance: With real estate photography in particular, I'm learning that far too many believe editing software is there to correct poorly shot photographs, rather as a tool to do minor improvements like cropping or adding a wee bit more 'pop'. Sadly, they are either too lazy or too unskilled to take the picture right the first time. Similar to those old Sears Portrait Studio folks who often had zero background in portrait photography, I've seen little interest in producing quality work as artists, with most more focused on rushing through to the next gig than creating images that will draw in potential buyers.Having bought and sold a number of homes now, I've seen a number individuals who've literally suggested shooting at high noon, deciding that PhotoShop will cure all shitty photos they take, not to mention completely ignoring the homeowner on what shots are important to them to capture the essence of the garden. The industry does not reward art...only speed.

In recently engaging two different individuals to shoot our garden, my expectations were that the work provided would be better than what I could snap with my cell phone. Instead I got overexposed, poorly color-corrected, shot-from-the tripod-while-standing photographs that looked, to quote my husband, Dull As Dogshit. Both relied on others to do their editing and took little ownership over the final product, with the 'it's good enough' mentality that doesn't allow the viewer to see all that's possible with a gorgeous garden.

And the tragedy? More than a few homes out there have stunning flower and vegetable gardens that - if photographed by someone who was truly engaged in capturing the beauty of the natural landscape around a home - would create images that would instantly evoke emotional responses from potential Buyers...and big fat offers. A house hunter would see the photos and practically gasp at the beauty of the haven the Seller has created. They would see what the Seller sees when they walk up the path to their front door after a hard day, exhale with happiness like the Seller does on sunny mornings in Spring and Summer. They would realize that a home is not just what you live Inside, but how you choose to surround it, whether the property is the size of a postage stamp or on acreage as far as the eye can see. Watch this brilliant video taken of our farm, absorbing the beauty both in and outside of the house, and you'll see how a home can sell a life...

Yesterday, I woke up and instantly went outside as I always do on sunny mornings. Before people are heading off to work. Before the schoolkids walk by on their way to the elementary school down the street. While the birds and the bumblebees and the other urban wildlife still have privacy, for a short moment in time. And for me, my garden is a little slice of nirvana. I grabbed my phone, and shot these...

People talk SO often about how Buyers want to feel something when they see pictures, imagine themselves there, and when it comes to interiors, I've seen so many brilliant shots taken by so many real estate photographers. But when it comes to exteriors? An utter crapshoot. If they get a day that is all about filtered sunlight, it is a blessing to shoot a backyard (or front yard) garden , at any direction, with the softness of the light letting the colors pop, from the greens in the beds to the red and pink of the roses, etc. But most don't, and rather than saying "OK I'll shoot the front in the AM and the rear in the PM" (or vice versa), they cram it all into whatever time, with pure reliance on PhotoShop to attempt - often poorly - to 'composite' multiple shots together...and still often ending up with photos I can only describe as 'bleached'. One actually said, it's 'good enough'...not what you say when trying to make a sale. Your goal should always be to create Great Pictures from what you've been provided.

And with that, grab your camera - not your tripod - and Walk Around. Squat down and look at the house and the garden from multiple perspectives. Immerse yourself in the flowers and share that vibe of nature in your images. Know what time of day the sun doesn't beat down on your garden, bleaching out the colors and stealing their glory. Get up early. Stay out late. Embrace clouds. And for goodness sake, unhook that tripod and be one with the natural world, if just for a short time. Take every shot from every angle, then let the client pick from the menu. You might just see something you never could have imagined...

My shots aren't professional. They don't show 'all corners'. But they do evoke exactly what I feel - peaceful, optimistic, and surrounded by everyone deserves.

PS - And when you show them your work? Show them as you would use them in a listing - do NOT give them raw images. A lot of time is wasted by photographers who don't present the best versions upfront. No one cares about RAW. No one needs to see your contact sheet. Give them what makes them smile - not what makes them nervous.


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