Garden photography

by James Alexander-Sinclair

[...] my photography collection is about as disorganised as an over-stuffed drawer that has been turned upside-down. So what should I do?

Red meadow plantingOver the years, I've taken a lot of photographs. There are photographs of various gardens - my own, other people’s, show gardens, gardens I have visited and front gardens I have passed in the street. And then there are other subjects, including plants I like, plants I dislike, animals, insects, ponds, buildings, views and panoramas, and so on. In all, I have around 60,000 images.

I think that 70 per cent of my photographs should be thrown away as they are not really good enough for anything. My excuse for keeping them is that I need them for lectures, or to illustrate blogs like this. But even the most patient of audiences and the sweetest-natured reader would begin to feel homicidal if they had to look at all of them.

Blue meadow plantingPart of the problem is that it's now so easy to take lots of digital pictures. When I first started I would have to buy and develop a film, which was both expensive and time-consuming. So I took fewer pictures. Nowadays I have a little camera that fits in my pocket, and a telephone with a camera. It's the easiest thing in the world to just take a quick snap.

A pictorial record of the garden is unbelievably useful; it reminds you of gaps, or plant combinations, or those jobs that you simply must do in the autumn. It's like a very effective notebook, provided that you are organised.

Unfortunately, my photography collection is about as disorganised as an over-stuffed drawer that has been turned upside-down. So what should I do?

My intention is to be ruthless, especially with the older pictures, taken with a less sophisticated camera. Where I've taken several shots of the same thing, I'll narrow them down. And no matter how artistic the shot, I'll throw out anything that's badly framed or out of focus.

I'll add tags to my photographs so they can be easily found. And I'll take fewer pictures. Sometimes there's a danger that we're so busy photographing things, that we forget to actually look. It’s a good idea to leave the camera at home and just enjoy the moment.

However, I'll keep any individual plant portraits because they're useful for identifying mystery plants. But I'll also label them all, so everybody knows what they are.

When will I do all this? Oh, very soon, I promise.

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Talkback: Garden photography
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Gardeners' World Web User 07/11/2011 at 15:30

Oh, James, you need a photographic equivalent of a secretary! I can't wait to see my photos on my computer and edit them. They then are put into a category like "Nov. in my garden" or "Botanical wonders" or such and a small description. The computer dates them for me luckily and so I have a system which makes it easy to find what I need when I am preparing a talk for a club as I like to tailor my content to suit the people I am talking to. But, of course I have nothing like the number you have and I do ditch immediately the photos not up to scratch.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/11/2011 at 15:43

Addendum - those two lovely photos were just what was needed on such a dreight day!

Gardeners' World Web User 07/11/2011 at 19:46

Do you use any software to help you James? I use a program called ACDSee Pro and it helps a lot. I also go through the pics I've taken and do a quick clean-out of "bad" photos just as soon as I move them to the PC. What I find interesting is that what I consider a "good" photo and what others might consider "good" are often two different things. Like you, I use Flickr (we are contacts too - D&J H.) and it surprises me sometimes which photos people comment on and favorite. Usually not the photos I thought were the best. If you ever visit Mid-Missouri, you and your camera would be welcome to visit our humble garden. :)

Gardeners' World Web User 08/11/2011 at 11:03

Software can help a lot. I use Picassa (Google's free software) which automatically arranges your albums in chronological order.

Gardeners' World Web User 08/11/2011 at 19:55

Oh James, I could have written this blog, word for word. Do let us know if you ever find out how to organise such vast numbers!

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