Designs, Tricks, and Schemes

Photography Lesson in a Garden



David demonstrates the correct way to hold a camera.

As an eager but very amateur photographer, I’ve attended all sorts of photography classes and talks, with little improvement to show for it. Then I stumbled upon a teaching method and classroom setting perfect for me – a “photo safari” with an extraordinary teacher and a small class of enthusiasts in a stunning garden-like setting. Unlike most classes, it was very hands-on, and FUN.

Especially helpful was that we could immediately try things that teacher David Luria suggested and get his immediate feedback on the results, thanks to the viewing capabilities of digital cameras. He spotted the incorrect setting on my camera’s function wheel and fixed it immediately, with an explanation.

Here are some lessons I learned on DC’s Cherry Blossom Safari.


When photographing a group, arrange them like this – feet turned to the center, not straight ahead.


Even large, heavy cameras can be held steady if the proper stance is used.
Park Service3

David told us that the biggest difference between amateur and professional photographers is that amateurs are too far away from the subject. The photo left isn’t nearly as effective as the one on the right, which could be an even tighter shot.

One trick to make photos more interesting is to include people in them especially the ones with bold-colored clothing, like the red stripes on this class member. If you don’t have their permission, it’s best to not show their faces, though. (David confessed to having stalked people wearing orange shirts for some great shots.


David chose this gnarled cherry tree to pose a class member and instructed the class to come in close – closer than this, even. Also, shoot from below the subject’s eyes.


The photographer on the left is getting a nice close shot.

In addition to these and many more compositional tips, David taught us F-stop tips, how to blur or stop action, when to use fill flash and polarizing filters, and more. He was familiar with everyone’s cameras and customized his tips accordingly.

Other Locales in DC, and Elsewhere?
Photo safaris are available in these garden-like settings throughout the season: Monuments and MemorialsHillwood Museum and Gardens, Mount VernonNational Mall by Circulator Bus, the National Zoo, and the FDR Memorial.

Anyone know if there are in-garden photography classes in other U.S. cities?

Posted by on May 13, 2016 at 9:49 am, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes.
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3 responses to “Photography Lesson in a Garden”

  1. Martha says:

    These tips are great. My father, a great amateur photographer, called those photos taken from too far a distance “postage stamp pictures.” I learned to move in. When on hiking trips, I’ve implored my husband to wear his red or orange shirts rather than the green or grey, for just the reason your instructor stated. I’d never heard the “photograph a person from below the subject’s eyes — I’ll have to put that into practice. When I want to photograph flowers up close, I use magnifying filters, and recently learned to also put the camera on a tripod too (I use a gorilla one — google it) since the focal length is so short. Eliminated my out-of-focus pictures.

  2. marcia says:

    Once you learn some easy photography tips from the pros, you will be quite the expert on what is a good vs. not so good shot.

    For me, the most important tip is the famous “Rule of Thirds.”

    This can certainly be applied to flower photography.
    1.Get down to flower level.
    2.Focus on a flower by pressing half way down on the shutter
    3. Move the camera while the shutter is still depressed so that the focused flower now lines up according to the Rule of Thirds
    4. Snap the photo.

    You can even break these rules for good photos.
    Google “flower photography tips.”

  3. Laura Munoz says:

    Well, this post was interesting. Sounds like a great class!

    Are the close-up shots one reason why so many gardeners take photos of only one flower close-up? (I’m one of those gardeners who likes to see the whole picture and/or the background where a flower grows, so sometimes I get bored seeing photo after photo of only one plant, but now, with what you wrote, this seems to make sense.)

    The gnarled tree photo is just lovely, by the way.

    Any tips if you want a view of flowers with a house or flowers along a path?

    Photography is one reason I don’t blog because photos are expected in a garden blog. For some reason, photography hasn’t grabbed me.–I sort of avoid taking photos, and honestly I usually can’t tell the difference between what is considered good photography versus bad photography.