Garden Photo Point of View

– Posted in: Garden Photography

Want to take better garden photos ?  Before you snap the shutter, think of your point of view.

Meadow garden as seen from behind two trees – a point of view well composed between two trees that evokes a natural meadow as a clearing in a forest.

We are now deep into the PhotoBotanic Garden Photography Workshops, lesson 2.4 where I reveal the secret to good garden photography – think of your point of view.  This concept perfectly transcends the first 3 chapters, as we move from Good Garden Photography – to Seeing the Garden – to Thinking Like a Gardener.  You should be realizing every photo needs to tell a story – and have a point of view.

Point of view has a double meaning.  On the one hand you should be conscious of why you are taking a photo, what story you want to tell.  What is your opinion – what is your point of view?  The camera always lies and it is up to the photographer to distill the scene in front of you to tell the story (the lie) you want told.

In order to tell your story you will need to carefully consider the scene in front of you and find a vantage point to compose your photo – you need a physical point of view.  Carefully consideration of this is fundamental to composition and a well crafted photo.

Consider this fine garden room.

View of bench in garden room surrounded by plants

As soon as I saw this secret little room tucked behind shrubs just off the lawn behind this gracious home I knew there was a photo to be had.  I grabbed this photo right away as I considered what I was seeing, what I wanted to say about it, and where the best angle was to be had.

I wanted to emphasize the contemplative feeling of being surrounded by these distinctive plants, having them all to oneself in this small space.  I wanted to put other garden lovers here to drink in the wondrous combination of plants, to emphasize the bench among the plantings, and not be pulled out of the mood by seeing the larger garden beyond.

Did you notice the camera icon in the photo ?  That’s where I’m headed; that’s where the next photo will be taken.

Fortunately there was a small garden path leading around the back of the garden room and I found a spot behind the bench, outside of the space I wanted to photograph.

Point of view outside the garden looking in, over the bench.

Often a position outside the garden area gives you a point of view that seems to put you inside the garden.  I will often walk away or back out of a scene so that I can look back into it and juxtapose elements that frame a composition (see lesson 2.1 Framing).  Here, I went around to the other side of the garden in order to look back in. (FYI – the first shot was taken from where you see the pot on the path above.)

In this next example, moving the camera only a matter of inches creates a completely new point of view.

Stream and pond in backyard garden.

This first picture is about a water feature, stream and pond flowing through a backyard garden. The next story is more about this magical pond itself, as it adds a shimmering space for the light of the sky to reflect into the garden.

I put on a wider lens, raised the camera up on the tripod about 12 inches so I could point it back down to the pond and pick up more of the sky reflection.

Point of view looking down into the pond and its reflection

Note I also needed to move about 18 inches to my left so that the strap leaves of the Iris could line up as a precise silhouette in the reflected water.  Careful attention to composition detail gives an exact best position to set up, an exact point of view for the camera to communicate the point of view of the photographer.

If you study the physical point of view of those two pond photos you will realize they were both taken at fairly low angle rather than a standing, eye level point of view.  While, in the next chapter, I will strongly urge you to trust your own eyes and learn to appreciate what a lifetime of eye level observations has told you about beauty, there is nothing like a change to your vantage point of view to help you see differently.

This is especially true when you photograph flowers that grow close to the ground.

View looking down on Grecian Windflowers

If there is room  to get low, even down to a belly view, you will find flowers photograph much more realistically and dramatically.  This sequence was part of a Gardening Gone Wild Point of View post almost 4 years ago and I doubt many of you seeing these now will mind a repeat of the belly shots.

Close-up ground level point of view of Grecian Windflowers emerging in spring garden

Certainly there are many times when you will want to shoot down into a flower (think sunflowers) but whenever you can get eye level to any subject, be it bulbs, babies, or bird nests you viewer will make a more direct connection.

I will finish this post with two photos of the same scene.  The point of view has not changed very much but I much prefer the second photo.  Do you? Why – or why not?

Flowering maple by stone seat in drought tolerant garden.


Stone seat by path with flowering maple

Discussion in the e-book….


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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Fran Sorin January 9, 2013, 3:14 am


Your photos are magical. Am going to put this lesson to use immediately as I rush out to take photos of overflowing river, high winds, etc. as Israel experiences the most rainfall since 1970.

Centering the path and the lighting in the 2nd photo makes it more compelling ~ Fran

Susan January 9, 2013, 7:49 am

Nice Post. I too prefer the second photo. It is taken lower down and you have eliminated the distracting chaos at the top. This lighting is richer. As Fran said above, the path placement is much more pleasing. The curvature of the path invites a journey. Thank you. Susan

Thanks Susan – The second photo did get a bit more loving care in post production which will explain the richer lighting. They were taken within minutes of each other, so available light did not really change but cropping down on the “chaos at the top” does eliminate the distraction of bright light pulling the eye toward it and away from the main subject. – Saxon

Donna January 9, 2013, 11:00 am

I agree 100%. The point of view is extremely important for all the reasons you have mentioned and have shown with your beautiful examples. The lower angle of view seems to consistently give a more interesting shot. One thing about the flowers, they don’t fly away! I wish it was possible to get more subjects at eye level, because the view seems more natural. The path shot is a perfect example. You feel more intimate with the garden, like you are there to take the stroll.

Thanks Donna – The idea, in that second photo, of the stroll and the path is spot on, but the camera is not lower just closer. In the first photo, as I was contemplating what I was seeing, the Abutilon was very important and the focus of my attention, but I couldn’t really figure out a strong composition – until I decide to simply move right up to the shrub itself – and the new photo ‘clicked’. The point of view – of moving right up to the subject then created new blocks and shapes, new leading lines, new story. – Saxon

Diana Studer January 9, 2013, 3:30 pm

the first is – yes dear, very nice. But the second makes me wish I could walk into that garden – which is your deliberate intention – the lie your camera tells so skilfully!

Thanks Diana – LOL “yes dear …” Isn’t that what people say when they say your work is “workmanlike’? But hey it isn’t a lie that that garden makes you want to explore it. – Saxon

Iniyaal January 11, 2013, 3:12 am

I like taking photos of flowers lying beside them and having them at my eye level.. but I have not tried taking photos of gardens from positions outside the view. Your photo of the garden bench is magical…I am going to try out similar frames.
Thanks for the informative post.

Diligent Gardener January 11, 2013, 5:42 am

Lovely photo as always, and thank you for the tips hopefully I can improve my own skills – and boy do i need to!!

Stay tuned and hopefully you can use other lessons – practice makes perfect; though in the dead of winter its a bit difficult to get out and practice … – Saxon

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