Photographing plants in a greenhouse is commonplace for me, since I have 7 greenhouses, but today I’ll talk about shooting where anyone can go….to our public greenhouse at Manito Park. It is fun to shoot in that comfortable environment, though the task is made considerably more difficult by the rule that no tripods are allowed. I get it that the paths are narrow, but it would sure help shoot in the low light if these were allowed.
I suggest an ISO of about 400. A really sunny day you might get by with 200 or a darker day you might have to go up to 800. You’ll want some depth of field, so an F stop of at least 5.4 is helpful. With a tripod, you could shoot at F8 to F11, really sharp, but you’ll likely encounter slow shutter speeds and lose the sharpness hand holding at that aperture. The ideal lens without a tripod to assist would be a 35 mm macro. I shoot with and generally prefer a 100 mm macro, but for hand holding the greater depth of field with a wider lens will likely pay off. The shots shown here were taken with a 100 mm macro and natural light.
Select subjects with interesting color, line or form. Remember that foliage can be just as impressive as flowers, and the color is generally longer lasting. Be sure to select subjects with extremely healthy leaves or blooms since flaws are so easily noticed when a picture is studied. The same plant that looks pretty to the eye can be pretty nasty in a photo. Minor flaws can be removed in Photoshop. The spot healing brush works well for that in most cases, though you may have to click a spot 2 or 3 times to get it fully fixed.
When processing pictures, consider simplifying and/or amplifying certain characteristics. For example, in the photo at right all parts of the image except the relevant 2 leaves have been removed and the leaves themselves have been reduced to a shape with strongly contrasting veins. Or, note in the orchid picture how I emphasize the bloom and essentially hide the foliage aspect of the plant.
Also consider the various angles that are possible for shooting a picture. Not everything looks best with a helicopter view from above or a straight on side view. Try to fill the frame with the item of interest and have as few distracting items around the edges as possible. That can be tricky in a crowded greenhouse environment.
Follow those tips and you’ll find that the Manito Greenhouse is a wonderland of possible shots.