Stephen Studd Photography

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Capturing the Beauty of Plants

In the February issue of Outdoor Photography magazines Holiday & Courses guide, I give my tips for capturing the beauty of plants.

Digital photography holidays, tours, workshops courses to Cambodia, Vietnam USA and landscape photography workshops courses in the UK, Wales, Gower

After 30 years as a professional travel and landscape photographer I have a good understanding of the natural world, having spent many a day bunkered down and immersed in the natural environment with my Mamiya 6×7 camera (pre-digital) waiting for the right light conditions that I wished to capture. So when I was approached to produce photographs of plants for a book 10 years ago, I jumped to the challenge. It led me down a whole new branch of photographic exploration, plant photography.

As with any aspect of photography, after initial trials you find your feet and style. My approach to plant photography really moved on from the initial commission for the book. I am far more interested in the art of plant photography and what makes one photograph really stand out from the others?

There are certain elements that you need to consider when making a great shot.

  • Explore your subject before rushing to photograph it, walk around and see what you are drawn to, see how the light plays on the plant. Think about your composition, how is the subject going to fill the frame? Backlit flowers will always look good if the petals are translucent as it accentuates the colours, giving off a luminescence and showing off the patterns. Don`t be afraid to try out different angles, getting down to the same height as the plant is very effective, or look up to flowers from below them.

plant and Flower photography workshops courses with Stephen Studd of Digital Photography holidays

  • Time of day is an important consideration when taking your photographs. Harsh midday sun makes most subjects look unflattering. Early morning or late afternoon are the best times of day as the light is warmer, less harsh and the colours of the plants look richer.

Iris close up

Mornings also tend to be less windy, flowers are hard to photograph when they are moving around too much. Windy days are the toughest to photograph flowers on, unless you choose to use the blur creatively with a slower shutter speed.

  • Weather conditions are most important. Most people are surprised to hear that overcast days can be very beneficial for plant photography. This is because clouds act as a perfect light diffuser, creating even lighting and saturation without the worry of harsh highlights or shadows.

plant and Flower photography workshops courses with Stephen Studd of Digital Photography holidays

  • The background of your photograph needs consideration as untidy, busy, cluttered backgrounds kill a shot as the viewers eye gets distracted away from the subject. If there are shadows use them to make the subject stand out, or move in closer to the subject with a tight crop.

Dahlia "Bobby Dazzler"

  • For close ups I would always recommend the use of a tripod, they allow you to frame the plant perfectly and keep the image sharp. Also, look at the flower you are photographing to make sure it is free of blemishes or missing petals.

plant and Flower photography workshops courses with Stephen Studd of Digital Photography holidays

Experiment and have fun, try out new angles, backgrounds and processes you might be surprised with the results you obtain capturing the beauty of plants.

Flower photography workshops can be found on my website

Photography holidays & courses to Cambodia,  Vietnam, Marrakech the USA and the Gower, can be found on my website
‘May the light be with you’






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Kinetic Musical Troughs and Colour – a glance back at RHS Chelsea 2017.

Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  Beneath A Mexican Sky garden,Taking my first peek at the show last year on the Sunday before press day,  Manoj Malde’s ‘Beneath a Mexican Sky’ garden stopped me in my tracks with it’s in your face bold use of colour. Having spent some time in Mexico myself I know that Mexicans are not shy of using colour.

Manoj’s garden had a quiet, relaxed feeling to it and had one of my favourite plants Agave Americana, showing the blue green colours against the orange wall and turquoise water feature.

Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  Beneath A Mexican Sky garden,

Walking around taking in the show gardens I noticed that there seemed to be a predominant colour palette of reds, oranges and yellows coming through, as seen here in Charlotte Harris’s RBC Garden with planting of Aquilegia canadensis with Zizia aurea.Photographer: Stephen Studd, The Royal Bank of Canada Garden,  D

The Hagakure Hidden Leaves garden designed by Shuko Noda was framed in red, picturing another tranquil, peaceful and calming space._MG_8459

As a professional garden photographer at Chelsea, I know that one of the hardest spots for a garden designer to fill is the one that Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins ‘The Silk Road’ garden filled dramatically and really showcased the colour scheme of yellows, reds and oranges in such a large scale._MG_8674The Viking Cruises ‘Garden of Inspiration’ by Sarah Eberle had bright vivid mosaics and of course the orange tree to take you straight to the Med._MG_8464The Breast Cancer Now Garden: Through the Microscope designed by Ruth Willmott_MG_8611used the colour palette of oranges, reds and yellows to great effect._MG_8613

A new feature at the show in 2017 were the BBC Radio 2 Feel Good Gardens, which were designed to uplift the senses and encourage people to lose themselves in the sights, scents, sounds, flavours and textures.

The Zoe Ball Listening Garden, designed by Skipper of the light fandango, James Alexander-Sinclair was another show stopper with the kinetic musical troughs. They were mesmerizing, just watching the sound waves ripple on the water and seeing what patterns they produced _MG_8504with the occasional splash from deep bass sound, a novel idea well executed._MG_8507The Anneka Rice ‘Colour Cutting’ garden designed by Sarah Raven was a colourful garden which had a lovely retro, nostalgic feel to it._MG_8731

The garden was a riot of colour which was blended together with great talent._MG_9075

As an allotment holder, the Chris Evans ‘Taste Garden’ designed by Jon Wheatley, reminded me of visits as a young child to my Uncle Harry’s garden in Ipswich, whilst giving me allotment envy.Photographer: Stephen Studd - The BBC Radio 2 Chris Evans Taste Garden garden, from right to left: Cabbage 'Red Jewel, Kale 'Reflex' Kale 'Redbor', lettuce 'Red Iceberg', Leek 'Cumbria', with nasturtium 'Tall mixed', sweetcorn 'Sundance', runner bean 'StThe vegetable garden also reflected the warm colours of reds and bronzes.Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  The BBC Radio 2 Chris Evans Taste Garden garden, Lettuce from right to left, 'Red Iceberg', 'Nymans', 'Lettony', Designer: Jon Wheatley

The Jeremy Vine ‘Texture Garden’ designed by Matt Keightley had so many great design ideas packed in to a small space, wow what a wall that was and great use of oversized irregular-shaped paving stones that created a feeling of space.Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  The BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Texture Garden, Stone path over pond, concrete wall inlaid with moss balls, Acer Griseum, Euphorbia 'Fens Ruby',  Euphorbia 'Whistleberry Garnet',  Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum', Stipa tenuiMatt’s sumptuous planting truly showcased beautiful flower, grass and conifer plant combinations alike.

Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  The BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Texture Garden, Acer Griseum, Prunus serrula, Iris germanica 'Kent Pride', Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum', Pinus mugo 'Mughus', Pinus mugo 'Pumilio', Stipa tenuissima, Calamagrostis x acutifl
Prunus serrula, Iris germanica ‘Kent Pride’, Cirsium rivulare ‘Atropurpureum’, Pinus mugo ‘Mughus’ & ‘Pumilio’, Stipa tenuissima, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, Calamagrostis brachytricha, Melica altissima ‘Alba’, Pimpinella major ‘Rosea’, Foeniculum vulgare ‘Giant Bronze’

His garden really stood out with the combination of textures in it and coppery red tones with the grasses catching the sunlight transforming their colours whilst waving gently in the wind.Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  The BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Texture Garden, Verbascum 'Firedance', Iris germanica 'Kent Pride', Stipa tenuissima, Cirsium rivulare 'Atropurpureum', Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', Calamagrostis brachytricha, M

Copper was used to great effect in Charlotte Harriss’s garden with the patinated copper pavilion._MG_8744

The sunrise light on the Breaking Ground garden, designed by Andrew Wilson and Gavin McWilliam had a striking copper wall and Stipa gigantean and other grasses again absorbing the warm morning light.Photographer: Stephen Studd - The Breaking Ground Garden, Sunrise over the garden, Stipa gigantica, Melica altissima 'Alba', Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna', Salvia greggii 'Nachtvlinder', Verbascum phoeniculum 'Violetta', Pimpinella major 'Rosea', Designer:

Finally the RHS ‘Greening Grey Britain‘ garden designed by Professor Nigel Dunnett was brimming full of take away ideas. The living roof over the wheelie bins, growing herbs and edibles was a great idea, even down to the wooden legs with drilled holes for solitary insects._MG_9143-EditThe very contemporary urban garden showcased the principles of sustainable rainwater management, with naturalistic informal planting set against the strong shapes and forms of the paths and hard surfaces. Greening Grey Britain Garden Nigel Dunnett RHS Chelsea Flower ShThe RHS ‘Greening Grey Britain‘ campaign is addressing the fact that we are paving over the UK, which is harmful to wildlife and is damaging to the nation’s health, whilst putting homes at more risk from flooding. Working with communities to transform neglected spaces into beautiful ones, researching about plants that can make the most difference to the environment and showcasing inspirational gardening at their shows and gardens. These spaces at the shows are always inspirational as they are achievable in our own spaces, no matter how small they are, helping everyonewith ideas to “get Greening Grey Britain, one plant at a time.”  _MG_8436

With the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018 countdown on, I look forward to seeing the new trends in garden design at the show this year.Photographer: Stephen Studd  -  The BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Texture Garden, sun reflected in small pond, Verbascum 'Firedance', Pinus mugo, Stipa tenuissima, Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', Calamagrostis brachytricha, Melica altissima 'Alba'

My garden and travel photography website is:

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Macro Art – IGPOTY

The photograph I entered for the International Garden Photographer of the Year competition won 1st place in the Macro Art category. The exhibition of all winning entries from each category of the competition is presently on at Kew Gardens until March 11th. After this it will tour to various venues in the UK and The Netherlands, Gibraltar, Portugal, Spain and Germany.

Giant Carrot

Giant Carrot – 1st Place IGPOTY Macro Art

My photograph is also gracing the front cover of the Edition 11 book.

The exhibition and book showcases the winners and best entries with inspirational images of beautiful flowers, wildflower landscapes, nature and wildlife, still life of macro/plant portrait photography.

macro art photography workshop with stephen studd photographer IGPOTY front cover collection 11 International Garden Photographer of the Year 2017 2018

The photograph was taken at the Malvern Autumn show where they host the UK National Giant Vegetables Championship, all sorts of vegetables are on display as part of the competition.

People at the show were photographing the whole size of the giant veg, but to me the oversized veg look rather grotesque and  not photogenic. This made me think outside the box as a photographer and look at the subjects and interpret them in a different way, as on closer inspection they reveal patterns that are not usually seen on ordinary sized veg. I decided to produce a series of abstract images of the giant veg instead.

When I teach my photography workshops, I always talk about what is the ‘end use’ of the images you take, for these it is a series of fine art framed abstract photographs. For this set I used a Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L Macro lens to focus in close to the vegetables I photographed.

Each giant veg I photographed revealed their own unique abstract patterns as can be seen in the very small selection from the series below. Can you guess what any of them are?




The judging panel for IGPOTY said: “Stephen’s image has emphatically answered the brief by executing a simple idea extremely well. We get lost in the extraordinary shapes, colours and textures of the carrot, which is anything but the ordinary vegetable we think we are so well accustomed with.”

Congratulations to all the other entries from the competition which can be found here: IGPOTY Macro Art

My website is:


I am hosting two flower photography workshops in June & July in the UK at Hampshire Carnivorous Plants & The Cottage Herbery, plus Bluebell photography workshops in April

I also run travel and landscape photography holidays and tours in Cambodia, Burma, Vietnam the USA & UK. Please visit the website for full itineraries and dates of tours:

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How to photograph snow

Arctic circle, North polar region, Europe, Scandinavia, Norway, Svalbard, Spitsbergen,  Longyearbyen, woman photographing beware of polar bears sign in Adventdalen valley

When it snows it is a great time to go out with your camera and capture its pure white freshness, but how many times do your photos appear dull and grey and lacking that freshness and purity? When photographing snow scenes or ones that have lots of white in, be attentive to your meter readings, it’s very easy to underexpose a predominately white scene.Watering can in snowSnow is much brighter than the 18% medium grey that your camera is averaged to expose for. Your camera is trying to capture the bright white scene as 18% grey which results in underexposed photos, making them look dull and grey like the one above.

So how do you make the image look bright and fresh whilst keeping detail?Watering can in snowIf your camera has an exposure compensation dial then you should dial in about 2 stops overexposure as a starting point. Exposure compensation is used to move the camera away from the cameras suggested exposure to brighter or darker ones. Look at the histogram and make sure the image preview isn`t blinking (indicating overexposed highlights). It takes a bit of practice but after a while you will be able to expose the shot perfectly. It is a good idea when practicing this technique to bracket the shot.

This scene below was a tough one to get right as the bud is against snow and the ice crystals on the bud I wanted to show with all their intricate detail.

Blackcurrant "Ben Nevis" branch with buds covered in snow and ice crystals, winter

As a starting point I added 2 stops overexposure in the exposure compensation dial, which gave a decent image with no highlights (snow & ice) overexposed. As the camera was on a tripod I then bracketed around this exposure for a perfectly exposed image which retained all the detail in the ice crystals.

On a photo shoot for Manfrotto in Svalbard this technique was essential as the whole place was covered in snow and ice at the time of year I was there. At -30C it was important to act quickly and know the way around the camera, as I had 3 pairs of gloves on, a thick outer extreme weather glove, then inside a woolen glove and a silk glove, this was a technique that Alan Hinkes told me about when I met him and asked his advice. I thought he should know, as he is the only British mountaineer to have climbed all 14 mountains with elevations greater than 8,000 metres and he also photographs his ascents. Basically you keep the 2 outer gloves on for as long as possible and for the shot remove the 2 outer gloves on the one hand leaving the silk glove when you are ready to take the photo.

For the shot below I dialled in 1 & 2/3rd stops overexposure in exposure compensation. This kept detail in the snow and also held detail in the blowing snow on the ground. The camera was mounted on a Manfrotto heavy duty 055 tripod as the strong wind blowing, nearly knocking me off my feet!

Arctic circle, North polar region, Europe, Scandinavia, Norway, Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Longyearbyen,  view towards Hiorthfjellet mountain and Adventtoppen mountain across Adventdalen valley

Again for the dog sledders below, overexposure was needed to keep the shot looking fresh, with full detail in the dogs and dog sledders.

Arctic circle, North polar region, Europe, Scandinavia, Norway, Svalbard, Spitsbergen, Longyearbyen, husky dog sled, dusk

When using your smartphone, in your phones camera settings there should be an exposure value / EV setting. Try shooting a snow scene without adjusting this and then shoot the same scene with it set to 1.5+ see those whites whiter, try moving it to 2+ brighter to see if this makes a difference, but be aware of over exposing the scene.

Arctic circle, North polar region, Europe, Scandinavia, Norway, Svalbard, Spitsbergen, view from Longyearbyen towards Hiorthfjellet mountain across Adventfjorden fjord, Advent Bay, woman taking photo across the bay

With this easy technique your snow will look snow white and not a dull flat grey. Have fun in the snow and keep warm!

This technique also works well with any scene that is predominantly white, such as with white flowers or buildings.


When you have finished photographing snow don`t forget to set exposure compensation back to 0

I run travel and landscape photography holidays and tours in Cambodia, Vietnam, Marrakech & USA 

I also run landscape photography workshops in the Gower, Wales and Flower photography workshops in the UK, please visit the website for full itineraries and information:

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‘May the light be with you’





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Are you sitting comfortably, Malvern Spring Festival 2015

With Malvern Spring Festival’s 30th Birthday just finished and Chelsea Flower Show looming, I wanted to share my seating highlights from Malvern this year. So take a seat and follow me round the show gardens that had seating areas.

Perhaps my favourite seats were these two cube ones made from 250 year old oak in the ‘Constraining Nature’ garden designed by Kate Durr Garden Design and sponsored by Whatley Manor and Ucare, which won Best RHS Festival Garden award and a gold medal.

RHS Malvern spring festival 2015  Constraining Nature designed by Kate Durr Garden Design Best Festival Garden award and a gold medal

For a small space garden they fitted in perfectly, the texture on them adding to their visual effect within the garden.

RHS Malvern spring festival 2015  Constraining Nature designed by Kate Durr Garden Design Best Festival Garden award and a gold medal

Another set of oak cube seats were in the ‘Genetic Conservation Garden’ designed by Tessa & Caitlin McLaughlin. The charred oak seats were designed by Chris Nangle.

RHS Malvern spring rhs show 2015 'Genetic Conservation Garden' designed by  Tessa & Caitlin McLaughlin.

These oak benches designed by Rodas Irving featured in the ‘Beating the Blues’ garden designed by Emily Sharpe, which won a Silver Gilt medal and also the Festival Gardens, RHS People’s Choice award.

Malvern spring rhs show 2015 'Beating the Blues' garden designed by Emily Sharpe, which won a Silver Gilt medal and also the Festival Gardens, RHS People's Choice award

A Gaze Burvill oak bench seat featured in Lisa Burchill’s ‘Out of Darkness’ garden.

RHS Malvern spring rhs show 2015 Lisa Burchill's 'Out of Darkness' garden Gaze Burvill

There was a corner seating area in the sunken part of the ‘Cornerstone’ garden designed by Pip Probert of Outer Spaces garden design, which was made from oak and stone.

RHS Malvern spring rhs show 2015 Pip Probert 'Cornerstone' garden Outer Spaces garden design Silver Gilt

RHS Malvern spring rhs show 2015 Pip Probert 'Cornerstone' garden Outer Spaces garden design Silver Gilt

The ‘Cotswold Way’ garden designed by Amy Perkins sponsored by Cotswold Estates & Gardens, had a Cotswold Stone bench.

RHS Malvern spring festival 2015 The Cotswold Way garden designed by Amy Perkins Silver Gilt and People's Choice best show garden

This was inside a covered seating area overlooking the garden. It won a Silver Gilt medal and also the RHS People’s Choice award best show garden.

RHS Malvern spring festival 2015 The Cotswold Way garden designed by Amy Perkins Silver Gilt and People's Choice best show garden

As an allotment holder who gardens organically with permaculture principles I am always drawn to gardens that have sustainability at heart. Hannah Genders ‘The Journey’ garden had a bench made from reused materials. The garden is to be rebuilt at Saint Michael’s Hospice in Hereford after the show.

RHS Malvern spring rhs show 2015 The Journey Garden designed by Hannah Genders Silver Gilt

Finally the ‘Bees Knees’ garden had to be my favourite garden designed for bio diversity and for pollinating insects. The seating here had to be the most portable of the gardens as the garden had a summerhouse with a giant honeycomb insect hotel.

Malvern spring rhs show 2015 The Bees Knees silver gilt designed by martyn Wilson

As I live in Stroud which became the world’s first bee guardian town, I watched with interest at dawn as the first pollinating bees started to arrive in the garden, as they had found a real treasure of pollen rich flowers. The garden was designed by Martyn Wilson of Wilson Associates Garden Design for the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Malvern spring rhs show 2015 The Bees Knees silver gilt designed by martyn Wilson

I look forward to next years 31st Spring show, next stop 5 days photographing at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in London, keep an eye out for my blog.


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IGPOTY Awards 2015; Behind the Photos



The International Garden Photographer of the Year awards have just been announced, I was Commended in the Beautiful Gardens category for this shot of Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, Morocco.

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Morocco, Marrakech, Jardin Majorelle (Yves Saint Laurent Garden)

I visited the garden a number of times as I was in Marrakech 10 days early before guests turned up for a photography city break I run there. The garden is a photographers dream with its bold colours and planting. The cobalt blue walls are a great backdrop to any plants in pots. The plant in this pot was just catching some sunlight giving depth to the composition.

I also converted it to black and white, and was going to send this one instead as I liked the simplicity of the shot.

Which one do you prefer?

marrakech Morocco Jardin majorelle digital photography holidays tours and workshops

I was also Highly Commended in the Monochrome category for this shot of Chitting Potatoes.

Potatoes chitting by stephen studd Photography

Chitting Potatoes

This was taken with my 100mm Canon macro lens, shot in a north facing window in natural light. It was the two shoots that caught my eye as they looked like weird alien cartoon characters. Even from the simplest of subjects you can find something to photograph with the macro lens.

Congratulations to Magdalena Wasiczek for her overall winning shot: The Ballerinas

To see all the awards for this year follow this link

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Travel photography holidays & UK flower photography workshops: including City Break to Marrakech & Atlas Mountains.

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Easy steps to photograp into the sun

My camera is always set on manual mode, if your camera is on auto and you photograph into the sun you will most likely get underexposed images.

When shooting into the sun your meter will underexpose the scene (the histogram will be way too far to the left). Photographing into the sun is a great way for you to learn to take control of your camera.

If you are after a warm glow around the sun then photographing at sunrise or sunset are the best times to achieve this.

Digital photography holidays Myanmar, Bagan,  temple at dawn, silhouette

Myanmar, Bagan, silhouetted temples at sunrise

Set the aperture you are after and meter for the scene without the sun in the frame as a starting point. Keep this meter reading then shoot with the sun in the shot and see how this looks.

For the shot above of the temples of Bagan in Myanmar I wanted to leave some detail in the silhouetted temples whilst giving a very warm feel to the image. You can try different exposures using the exposure compensation dial to see how the different exposures will look. The camera was mounted on my tripod and I focussed the scene manually, then avoided looking directly through the eyepiece to save my eyes from any damage. Between shots I put the lens cap on too.  To avoid flare it is best to remove any lens protection filters you might have on your lens.

If you are after a bright burnt out sun with blue sky then shooting around mid day can ahieve this, though this one is much harder on the eyes, so be careful. The shot below of the Allium Purple Sensation against the sun I wanted to convey the feeling of nature bursting into life with the power of the sun in summer. For this the sun had to be overhead with me lying on the ground. This shot was harder to achieve as I was hand holding and having to focus on the allium and meter.

Allium Purple Sensation against the sun

Allium Purple Sensation against the sun
f11 1/400th sec @70mm 100 ISO

The backlit flower against the sun shows off its shape and form and the colour of the petals is accentuated. In this shot the sun is more burnt out and there is flare which adds to the feel of the power of the beating sun.

When taking these type of shots please be careful of your eyes, you don`t want to damage them.

I am leading travel photography holidays and tours in 2016 and 2017 to Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam and Cambodia. Details can be found on the Digital Photography Holidays website;