I love taking photographs of my plants. I do it on the daily. But I definitely had to start somewhere, and it wasn’t something that came to me naturally. In 2016, at the very beginning of my Saffron’s Garden days, I was quite awful at it. Looking back at the photos I can see that some are blurry, others are over edited and then there are some that are outright boring. When I was going through this learning phase, I needed help photographing the plants and products I was selling. Enter Michelle. Michelle Viljoen is a photographer and graphic designer. She just nailed getting those plants to look their best. Take a look at some of the product shots she took for me:

This trip down memory lane, got me thinking. What makes a great photo of a plant? I reached out to Michelle and we put some tips together. I was quite chuffed to see that some of these points have since been reflected in some of my own photos. So if you’re like me and have at times battled to get a good shot. Consider the following tips:

1. Clean your lens

This may seem like an absolutely basic thing that doesn’t deserve mentioning, but you have no idea how many times I’ve received photos from people or have taken a photo myself with a dirty lens. And I PROMISE you, just a wipe of the lens does absolute wonders. It transforms your image from looking ‘smudgy’ to being crystal clear.

2. All hail natural light

The best light to use for your shots will likely be natural light. Move around your house and see where the light falls during the day and pick a spot that resonates with you. Morning and late afternoon light are much more golden and soft than the harsh midday sun.

3. Positioning of the light

When you set up the photo make sure the light source is not directly behind your plant/subject as this will cause your subject to be backlit and dark. Instead, move your plant/subject around, and see what happens when the light source/sunlight falls onto the plant from the side or semi-front. You want to use light to create depth so look for interesting light and shadow play. 

4. The rule of thirds is your friend

When you look at your phone or camera screen break up the frame into thirds, this really helps with the composition of the frame, position your plant centre, or off to the left or right using 1/3 or 2/3 of the grid. This rule of thirds is an easy composition to use to get a compelling and interesting shot. And look, rules are meant to be broken. So if this doesn’t resonate with the shot you’re trying to get, you can take a look here at how to break it.

5. Curate the scene

Now that you have a rough idea of the lighting you want, you have found a spot that you’re happy with and you have a composition in mind you can start curating the scene. Remove items that may be distracting from the plant or causes the photo to be too busy, don’t overthink it! Remember to have fun and play around – take as many photos as you like and play around with it!

6. Play with textures

The great thing with photographing plants is that they are all so different from one another. You get really have fun and maximise the feeling of a photograph by using these different textures alongside one another.

7. Play Around with your camera settings

Play around on your phone/camera with the settings to achieve a look you prefer. If you’re using a camera you can play with aperture and exposure (shutter speed) – the lower the aperture the more background blur/bokeh you will get! If you’re using a phone you can play around and explore the available settings depending on your phone’s camera capabilities. For example, using the portrait mode on a phone can really help you achieve a clear image of your subject.

8. Edit your photo!

Once you’ve selected a shot that you’re happy with you can now edit it. Editing can truly make a massive difference. If you’re looking for a great tool that you can use on your phone, check out VSCO or Lightroom.

And that’s it folks! Please tag us in any photos if you found these tips useful.

If you’d like to follow Michelle on her photographic journey, you can check out her mad skills here:

Instagram: @mich_viljoen

NFTs: From the other side

Business: @studioco.agency

Some of Michelle’s amazing street photography.

And if you have any handy tips that you’d like to add, please drop a comment. We’d love to add it to our list.