Book Review: The Photographic Garden: Mastering the Art of Digital Garden Photography

The Photographic Garden: Mastering the Art of Digital Garden Photography book cover

For me the next best thing to seeing a gorgeous clematis up close and personal is to view a beautiful photograph of one.  The nice thing about these images is they are forever.  That is the reason why I love to immortalize clematis blooms with my digital camera.  Since I have had no formal training in photography, I have had to learn through trial and error.  And after launching, I decided I would like to see if I could improve on my skills, so I bought a few books on gardening photography.  One of them is titled: The Photographic Garden: Mastering the Art of Digital Garden Photography by Matthew Benson.  It is packed with so much great information that I have highlighted something on nearly every one of the 180 pages.

 The Photographic Garden: Mastering the Art of Digital Garden Photography book highlighted

Like other books I have read, Mr. Benson gives advice on the essentials such as the importance of light and composition.  These are a few of the other things he covers including where to begin shooting in the garden, finding the best shot, how to deal with adverse conditions (such as bad outdoor lighting), getting around obstacles, selecting equipment and he even deals with postproduction.  What struck me the most though is his enthusiasm, which includes a you-can-do-it-too attitude.  To me, his insights and suggestions are both refreshing and encouraging.  Needless to say, I wish I had a copy of it when I started my clematis odyssey.  I can only fantasize about how much better some of my earlier pictures might have looked like after reading it.

One of the big plusses about this book is it discusses only using digital cameras.  In this day and age, with digital being the state of the art method of photography (and with no offense meant to the purists out there who are still using film), the garden photography books published earlier that dealt with film cameras are now obsolete.  The instant feedback provided by digital cameras (i.e. the ability to shoot it and view it immediately) has made me a huge fan.  Not having to deal with the expense of buying film and then waiting for it to be developed and then paying for the processing makes going digital a no-brainer.  So, it is about time that a garden photography book that embraces the digital movement has been made available.

I of course am particularly smitten by his five pictures of my favorite genus, especially the one of Clematis ‘Hagley Hybrid’ on page 24.  In the caption he uses to describe the photograph he states that: “The roses and clematis create a singular palate, although their form is dramatically different.  The clematis is framed in the center as the star, while the rest of the blooms appear in supporting roles”.  What a wonderful description.  I also love that the clematis was cast to play the romantic lead!!!

There is no question that Mr. Benson is very qualified to write this book.  The Art Directors Club of New York, an organization made up of his peers, bestowed upon him their Annual DESI Award for design excellence.  He has also been the recipient of the Society of Publication Designers Award, an organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging excellence in editorial design.  His work regularly appears in books, catalogs and in an impressive number of well-known magazines.  He is also a contributing editor to Organic Gardening.   So, if you would like to see some of his “breathtaking” work, visit Matthew Benson foto

No matter how well versed you are in general photography, I am confident that you will find his practical information about “garden” photography (which in my opinion is a genre all on its own) worthwhile.  If you want to go beyond “point and shoot” pictures to garden photographs that are “artistic as well as meaningful”, I highly recommend it.  The price of this book that is packed with professional advice is a very reasonable $24.95.  FYI, you can find it for less on Amazon.    

It is satisfying to know that even though I’ll never achieve the stunning photographic heights of an Ansel Adams, thanks to Mr. Benson and his splendid book, I will at least be better prepared to “see things like a camera” and “tell a story” which undeniably will “make my images more beautiful”!