Hardscape in garden photos

– Posted in: Garden Photography

To get a good garden photo, look for hardscape to help define your composition and tell the story, a story about the structure of the garden, how it is put together, what elements, besides the plants, make it work.

In this lesson of the PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshop, we continue the assignment theme “Think Like a Gardener” where I ask you to use your own knowledge of gardens and trust your insight to make photos in your own style, communicating in your own voice.  Hardscape is your theme.

Reread the previous lessons in this chapter to give yourself confidence.  Allow the gardener in you to inform the photographer in you to then become a garden photographer.

The assignment then, is to use a garden’s hardscape as a main element of your photo.  In previous chapters we have talked about composition, about shapes and lines, focal points and balance, color and light.  Apply all those lessons as you look at hardscape, and tell a story.

Hardscape is what physically defines a garden; it is the bones – look to it as you consciously compose your picture.


I love the simplicity of these few stone slabs, making steps up to this meadow viewing perch.  The landscaper actually made a big pile of dirt when leveling a meadow area and cleverly took advantage of the pile.  Without the hardscape element there is no good photo.

Indeed, in most gardens the hardscape defines the garden itself.  Sometimes it is easy to forget about it, to only see the beauty of the plants, but just as it gives a garden its structure, hardscape can give structure to your photos.


The story here is not just about the autumn color of the Japanese maple trees.  Incorporating the lattice fence and entry makes it a garden photo.  Are you beginning to see how the hardscape can be a crucial part of telling a garden story?

Let’s look at more examples of hardscape helping to define the garden.


Without seeing the rustic arbor and piece of the path, this insectary garden becomes just a collection of plants.  With the physical elements it becomes a better garden photo and tells a better story.

In this next example, the picket fence is the story, but as a garden story it is shown in context of house and garden.

rustic picket fence edging California garden; Moss Garden

Notice in this next photo the house is an element of hardscape too.


Of course the stream is also hardscape, but by showing a small piece of the patio and the house, the image becomes a stronger garden photo.

Here, a tiny patio of recycled material is the story.


Pathways through gardens can give great opportunity to compose with leading lines.


As you seek out hardscape elements for your photos don’t  limit yourself to the permanent structures and bones of the garden, any non-living component adds to your story.  These colorful chicken coops and the raised beds are a crucial element of this small space garden.

Chicken coop in back of small space backyard organic sustainable garden

You should now have lots of ideas for this assignment.  Try to use as much hardscape as possible.  In this final photo we see the pathway, the terrace, a fountain, a pergola, the brick walls.  Any one element could be a small story, together they make a whole story.


For KapliPRO readers who are actually following along with this assignment, if you want a critique, please post a comment with a link to one photo and I will give you some feedback. The photo can be on a blog post or public photo site such as flickr so others can learn more from this lesson.  Please allow a few days for me to get to each critique.


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Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt is the owner of PhotoBotanic.com, a garden picture resource for photographs, on-line workshops, and garden photography stories. An award winning photojournalist and Fellow of The Garden Writers Association with more than 25 garden books, he lives and gardens in Northern California. PhotoBotanic - Garden Photography online at www.photobotanic.com. https://photobotanic.com
Saxon Holt

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