1. Prepare yourself
Charge your batteries, pack and check your gear, wide-angle lens is a must. Don’t forget your best friend: a tripod. I also use a trigger, primarily if I shoot from inside the house. I take two images: one correct exposure of the garden and one correct exposure of the house then I combine it in Adobe Photoshop.
2. Organise the shooting at sunrise and sunset
It’s vital to photograph it when the light is flattering; it isn’t hard. If you don’t have a choice but to shoot at midday, then use a reflector or a flash for lighting up the shadows and making a bit less contrasty image. You can also pull up the shadows in post-production.
3. Focus on composition - lead the eye in
Look for lines and shapes that invite the viewer’s eye into the image. It can be compelling and can help viewers imagine themselves being there more clearly and lead them through the garden scene.
4. Clean and remove unwanted objects
Take your time when you compose and look for objects like bins, leaves, power lines, garden tools and so on. Clean the patio and path from any stains. You can crop it out later on. Work on your images and take another look at them in a few days – this way, anything distracting should jump out at you. You want the viewer to look at the whole image and not that one distracting element.
5. Use a ladder
Ask the garden owners if you can borrow theirs or take yours with you.
It adds a new angle to the selection., especially with tall perennial plantings. You can include some part of the house and the garden with that extra height from standing on a ladder.
6. Use the sun as a backlight
It creates the most exciting light and, often, images.
I sometimes add the lens flare to some of the images, but it can distort colours though so keep in mind. Use some objects to block it, like trees.
7. Ask for essential elements
Spend time with the owners/designers. It helps you with the composition.
Ask them what they are trying to achieve, what are the viewpoints/angles they love and if they have any of their favourite design features.
It’s crucial to get the right feel for a garden, especially when they want to enter it to a competition.
8. Take distant images
Give the garden a sense of place by showing its context on the broader landscape. Start with this, that’s like the first element to a story. Include the whole house and surroundings to display the actual scene. If it possible, do it at sunrise and sunset: this is when the sun is soft and isn’t too much contrast.
9. Take a rest of editing
If turnaround allows then take a day off. It helps to pick any distracting elements and remove them.