Photographing in a Garden

– Posted in: Garden Photography

holt_1103__078.CR2When you want to photograph a garden get inside it.

By this I don’t mean walk off the street and step inside the fence, or move from the backyard patio onto the lawn or path.  Immerse yourself in the garden, get under a tree, look through a gate, get behind a bench. By doing this you will give your viewer a feeling they too are in the garden.

In my workshops I use this technique as juxtaposition, and is part of the PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshops  book on framing a photo.  The idea is to put elements together that will force the view to see a perspective you want to see.


Whenever I see chairs or benches in the garden, I immediately see an opportunity to get inside a garden by looking past them.  It’s a great way to create intimacy, and in a grand garden you should find many places with benches and chairs to help you feel “in” the garden.

I found so many wonderful chair placements in my recent visit to Chanticleer I almost wanted to call this post “Where to sit in Chanticleer”. It is a marvelous garden and so thoughtfully put together you will want to find a place to sit to simply contemplate its design.

When I saw these orange chairs at the end of a path mown through what had been a spring bulb meadow, I realized there were multiple design ideas going on, and that the chairs and path were pulling me into the next garden room.

The first wide angle photo established the two rooms with both the line of the path and the color of the chairs pulling us in.  Always on the alert for publications that like vertical photos, I made sure I didn’t overlook a potential cover photo.

As I walked toward the inner garden room I used a telephoto lens to help give a sense of intimacy looking in.  The chairs are certainly the focus point but the edges of the shrubs by the path help isolate the moment.

Wide angle lens:


Telephoto lens:


Then once inside the garden room I went right away behind the chairs giving me a sense of the garden room and being in it, not looking at it.


Another opportunity to use chairs to tell my story came as I strolled through the Woodland Garden. I saw these two green chairs before I knew there was a clearing.  But they immediately beckoned – elements of juxtaposition.




They were nicely situated by a simple pond, but needed some context of being among the trees.  I backed out a bit to juxtapose a small tree in the composition.


It really did not seem to do justice to the woodland setting.  I wanted to find a vantage point deeper in the garden.


Now we are in the garden !  The chairs may be small, but in such a complex photo, I think it’s all I need.  We are truly photographing “in” the garden.

Let’s do one more discovery.  These next two chairs surprised me when I first approached them.  I was walking under the trees looking for a vantage point inside the garden looking out and saw this pair.


The photo you see above was actually an after-thought, after I realized there was a lesson here.  In that photo those chairs are in the garden, but you are not.  The photograph may invite you to go to those chairs, but there is no sense that you are already in the garden.

In the final photo you are already there.  You look past the chairs, not at them.  The chairs are juxtaposed with the trees to help frame the photo and  pull you in.  Just where the photographer wants you to imagine yourself.



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Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt

Saxon Holt is the owner of, 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
Saxon Holt

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