Better Garden Photography with Cell Phones

Okay, so I lied. I’m adding another part to this photography series, specifically for those shooting with a ‘point and shoot’ camera or a cell phone. Great photography is not about having the latest and greatest high resolution digital SLR camera out there; it’s about being creative and involved in your world, using the camera as your voice. Besides, the technology has improved dramatically in a very short period of time, making it hard for most people to distinguish between photos taken with a $100 camera vs. a $1000 dollar one.

It's easy to be creative and spontaneous with a cell phone. This is a fire hydrant.
I’ve made it a goal to take photos of everyday beautiful life on a daily basis, on my way to work, on morning walks or when I’m out doing errands. They don’t have to be pretty garden shots. I just try to showcase the minute details of the generic urban landscape that stand out to me as beautiful. I see wonderful things every day, but it’s all a matter of perspective. Luckily my cell phone camera gives me the perspective I need. Here are some ways that you can make the most of your humble cell phone for great pictures.

Cell Phones help you to be spontaneous. This is moss growing in a parking lot.

Get a Good Perspective

Cell phones and affordable ‘point and shoot’ cameras have made it possible for us to as many photos as we’d like without waiting for the film to get developed. You can take the photo, review it on the screen and trash the bad shots until you get a good one. They’re perfect for obtaining unusual perspectives since they’re small enough to reach into the foliage or at ground level.Try shooting from the hip, so to speak.

Learn to Use the Settings

Even the most basic camera has some settings to tinker around with. Try shooting the same subject with every setting available and see how they differ from each other. A party mode would be ideal for indoor low light settings, while the landscape mode would be good for most outdoor shots. When in doubt, just use the automatic setting.

Sometimes the only way to light up a shot is by using a flash

When to Use Flash

Most garden and outdoor photos look harsh and flat when a flash is used, but sometimes it works in your favor. Sometimes there just isn’t enough light to capture a decent shot, and other times the flash can create a neat effect. Usually, however, the flash just seems to drain the life out of any botanical subjects. If I’m trying to take a photo indoors, I’ll usually bring in a bunch of cheap desk lamps to get the lighting I want. Hey, it works.

Finding Focus

One of the quirks to pocket sized cameras is the inability to focus on your subject. You could be trying to get a shot of your favorite flower, only to find that the background is the only thing that comes out in sharp focus after each shot. Even though the composition won’t be gallery worthy, put the subject in the middle of the screen or pull the camera back a bit and you’ll have better luck getting the shot. You can always crop later! 

After the Shot
After taking a good photo, explore some other creative options. If you have a smartphone, try downloading image editing software directly to the camera! Otherwise, you'll have better tools at your disposal if you import photos to your computer and edit them to your heart's content using Photoshop, Gimp, and other image editing software. This can be a big help when the shadows aren't dark enough, or the image has too much contrast. In Photoshop your most powerful tool is Curves since it allows you to tweak the shadows, midtones and highlights while maintaining a natural looking image. When in doubt, just play around and have fun with it. That's how I learned!


  1. nice post! your photos are beautiful -- who knew a fire hydrant could be so interesting? one tip i would add is to be sure your lens is clean. most of us carry our phones around all the time with the lens getting all sorta of stuff on it. and, in the humid south it often fogs up just as you go outside, too. so wipe it off before you shoot! (maybe i'm the only one who needs that tip. lol)

  2. I always envy the photos on your site. I appreciate the tips for better photography.

  3. Great tips..esp for me because I'm almost always shooting with my phone!

  4. Wow! Did you really take these using a phone? I love photography and these tips are really helpful. Now my phone is fixed and as good as new - thanks to Cell Phone Repair Pros - I will try to take some pictures just like yours! Thanks for posting. :)

  5. Are you using photoshop for photo editing or I have Macbook pro and macphun looks better but interesting to hear another opinion


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