Whether you are taking photographs in the garden for pleasure, sharing with friends, exhibiting at the fair, or just to enjoy next January when the predominant color is white; there are a few tips that can make stunning photographs instead of snapshots.

I’m going to date myself again – back when we bought a roll of Ektachrome for four bucks, much more care was taken to make every shot count! Today some shoot with careless abandon hoping that one of 500 or so will be a “keeper.” The same guidelines still apply if you are using your phone, a digital point & shoot, or a digital camera with interchangeable lenses.

Photography is all about light. Train yourself to see what the light is doing. Early mornings with the sun still low give a very different effect from noon light that can be harsh and wash out colors and detail. Shooting in the shadows presents a challenge to capture what you want as well.

You can also do a lot to modify the light that each scene has. If you have ever noticed on a movie set, there is usually someone holding a white or shiny board to reflect light to areas of the scene where the shadows are too deep. Also, a black board or board covered with black velvet allows you to have a dark background where there is none. Try it sometime!

Composition is the arrangement of the subject and foreground or background. Study the scene before you put the camera or phone up to your eye. What are you trying to show? Does the background detract? Does the foreground lead your eye to the main subject? Carefully positioning other parts of the scene can lead the eye to the main subject or it can confuse the arrangement.

One technique that is as old as photography is to employ the “rule of thirds.” Mentally divide the scene you are shooting into thirds horizontally and vertically. Change the camera position so that the main subject is in one of the intersections of these thirds. This makes for a much more dynamic photograph.

Those of you with a digital camera can select lens openings that isolate the subject with sharp focus or allow the foreground and background to both be sharp. You can also choose to shoot with telephoto, wide angle, or normal lenses. That is a distinct advantage that an adjustable camera has. By carefully planning your shots with a phone, you can get very similar effects too.

Today virtually all photographs will be downloaded to a computer to store, print or share. Some phones and digital cameras allow you to employ special effects to modify the image. I will keep my thoughts to myself about this one. However, you do have the ability to modify exposure, sharpness, color balance, file size and contrast as well as to crop the image. These usually need to be done. With a bit of practice you can turn a poor image into a great one.

When you are done shooting, sit back and study the images. What could be done to improve them? Need some dew drops? A spray bottle works wonders sometimes! Maybe you need to get down on your belly for those garden close-ups. Check for ticks later! If you are shooting flower photos, wait for the perfect time when the blooms are at their peak. Share them with others and ask for feedback. Good shooting!

Click on “Yard and Garden” at the University of Minnesota Extension website for more gardening information. Local Master Gardeners will now respond to your questions via Voice Mail. Call 218-444-7916, leaving your name, number and question. Our Facebook page may also be of help to you: <https://www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners/