Stephen Studd Photography

Travel Gardens Plants

Behind the Photo: New Shoots

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Spring is bursting at the seams at the moment, each and every day bringing new shoots to the surface. I thought I would share with you some photography tips on one of my shots that has sold for a multitude of uses.

Organic kale seedling Nero de Toscana emerging in May planted in greenhouse

A very simple shot to achieve, just a little patience is required whilst you wait for the seedling to emerge.

For this shot I grew the seedlings in a large seed tray with the seeds spread wide apart as I just wanted one seedling in the shot.

The advantage of growing the seedling in a seed tray was once it emerged I could move the tray to the best light. I always prefer using natural light in my photography, so I placed the tray in a window, not one that has direct sunlight. Doing this gives the lovely fresh feeling to the seedlings leaves as they are backlit. I was after that feeling of fresh new growth and nature bursting out, the compost can be seen pushed away at the base of the seedling.

If you were to photograph with the window light behind you the seedling would look much duller as in the photo below.

Organic kale seedling Nero de Toscana emerging in May planted in greenhouse

For the main shot I used a macro lens, if you don’t have one, extension tubes can be used. I also used a tripod as this was essentially a studio style shoot. With the tripod I had control of where I could put the seed tray in front of the camera for the light I was after (backlit window light). I could also use a low ISO of 100.

I always use mirror lock and a remote release when I’m taking shots like this with the camera on a tripod, reducing the chance of camera shake.

I shoot on manual so I can control the exposure, look and feel of the shot. When shooting with the camera on a tripod getting the right exposure and depth of field is made much easier once you have the composition you are after as you are working in a controlled environment. Focus on manual, especially when using a macro lens.

I always shoot in RAW mode so I can process the image afterwards.

Finally for me it is important to know what variety the seedling is for captioning afterwards, so keep a note.

As the shot was intended for commercial use I left lots of room at the top of the shot for text, (for a magazine or book cover), with space at the bottom and sides for copy too. (Graphic designers will love you for it).

To recap for the shot:

  • Tripod used
  • Low ISO
  • Macro lens (or you can use extension tubes)
  • Mirror lock & remote release
  • Backlit window light
  • Control depth of field so just the seedling is in focus
  • Shoot on manual (especially when using a tripod)
  • Manual focus on the seedling
  • Use single shot drive mode
  • Shoot in RAW format

When the seedling first emerges like this act quickly, they grow and change very quickly overnight.  After I had finished photographing I grew the Kale Nero de Toscano seedling on and planted it on my allotment once the seedling had established. I was able to eat the leaves of the plant once it had grown to maturity, whilst receiving royalty cheques from it too.



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Author: Stephen Studd Photography

Stephen graduated from LCP in London in 1987 with a 2:1 BA Honours degree in photography. Since then he has travelled the world as a professional freelance travel & garden photographer. His photography has been published in many areas around the globe; from front cover of National Geographic magazine, to countless travel books, brochures and print media. His work has also been used in many advertising campaigns, with clients such as Fiat, Citigroup, Caribou Coffee, Expedia, BBC and countless others and his photography has picked up numerous international awards.. Stephen leads travel photography holidays and tours to Burma, Cambodia, Angkor Wat, Vietnam & the USA. He also leads Bluebell photography workshops in Gloucestershire and landscape photography workshops in the Gower, Wales. Stephen can be contacted for commissions via his photography website.

One thought on “Behind the Photo: New Shoots

  1. Thanks for the tips. 🙂

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