Episode 76: how to take great photos of your houseplants
Whether you’re keeping records of houseplants’ growth or showing them off on social media, taking photographs indoors can be tricky. I speak to three plant photographers to find out their top tips on lighting, framing and focusing your shot - and learn about some simple, inexpensive pieces of kit that can help you up your game. Plus - I answer a question about a Philodendron ‘Pink Princess’ that’s letting its name down by being anything but pink. My guests this week are:
Jacqui Hurst, British photographer of plants and gardens who runs workshops on technique and visual composition.
Filipa Dominguez, a film producer from Cape Town, South Africa who’s creator of Instagram account @checkmyplants. All her photographs of cacti and succulents are taken with natural light only, with an iPhone.
Marzena Wolowicz, a Polish plant photographer based in Vienna, Austria and the owner of Instagram account @folia_folia. She loves taking photographs of lush foliage and greenhouse interiors.
Tips from the experts
Here are some tips from our trio of photographers on how to improve your shots:
Jacqui recommends running your eye around the edge of the frame just before you take a shot to make sure there’s no distracting clutter in shot.
Photographing plants indoors can be tricky because of low light levels: Marzena suggests moving your subjects nearer to a window or bringing them out onto a balcony or other outside space (weather allowing).
Direct sunlight can be too harsh for photographing plants, so take care that you don’t create too many shadows. Filipa photographs all her plants against a black background.
Jacqui suggests making a reflector out of white foam board (see the picture below for details) to help bounce light around. You can use a mirror but be careful to avoid reflections, or dropping the mirror.
A tripod will help to reduce camera shake, particularly at low shutter speeds. A Gorillapod is a good choice for tabletop shooting.
It’s easy to simply copy the ‘minimalist white room’ look that’s so prevalent on Instagram but not all of us have that kind of home! Instead, try to let your own home and personality shine through your shots.
Camera menus can be confusing, but if you get stuck you can always half press the shutter button to get your camera back into shooting mode, advises Jacqui.
Want suggestions on what camera to buy? Here’s James Wong’s Twitter thread on cameras for photographing houseplants.
This is clearly a widespread problem with this plant: Google it and you’ll find reverted specimens on sale from various sellers, including US nursery Logees.
It helps to understand what’s going on in the leaves of a variegated plant such as this: it’s called chimeral variegation where two sets of genes are battling it out in a single leaf: one has chlorophyll, the other doesn’t. (Pistils nursery’s piece on variegation and its causes is a useful resource here.)
If your plant has reverted, try cutting back the plain green foliage to encourage new, variegated growth, but you may find you have to put up with a lack of pink.
Are you supporting On The Ledge on Patreon yet?
Want to hear more from our three plant photographers? Their interviews in full will be going up on my Patreon feed for subscribers of $5 a month or more to listen to soon (in fact Filipa Dominguez’s interview is already up, here).
If you like the idea of supporting On The Ledge on a regular basis but don't know what Patreon's all about, check out the FAQ here: if you still have questions, leave a comment or email me - email@example.com. If you're already supporting others via Patreon, just click here to set up your rewards!
For those who prefer to make a one-off donation, you can still buy me a coffee! A donation of just £3 helps keep On The Ledge going: helping to pay for me to travel to interviews, and for expenses like website hosting and audio equipment. Don't forget to join the Facebook page for news of what's coming up on the show and bonus blogposts!
If you prefer to support the show in other ways, please do go and rate and review On The Ledge on iTunes, Stitcher or wherever you listen. It's lovely to read your kind comments, and it really helps new listeners to find the show.
And don’t forget to sign up for the On The Ledge newsletter, too!