6 photography tips from a photographer with MS

It's our partners at the National Garden Scheme's 90th birthday this year. And they want you to help them celebrate by sharing your beautiful nature photos. Prizes include a private tour of celebrity baker Mary Berry's garden.

Sound delicious? To help you compete, we asked our photographer Rebecca, for her top tips for blooming lovely photos.

Being a photographer with MS

Hello, I'm Rebecca Cresta. I’m a freelance photographer and two years ago I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS. I work a lot with the MS Society and it’s been a real thrill seeing, first hand, what incredible work they do to help people like me.

With the unpredictable nature of MS, I can’t say what the future holds. So I make the most of life right now and that includes taking lots (and lots) of photos.

Here are my tips for making beautiful images. 

1. Work with the light

In photography there's much talk about the 'golden hour' which is the time around sunrise and sunset where the sunlight is soft and low. Of course, those times of day aren't always convenient so work with what you have. You may want to avoid the middle of a sunny day where the light and shadows are harsh.

If the weather is overcast, you can use clouds to your advantage. Close ups of wildflowers are often better off with a cloudy sky as it helps gets rid of those harsh shadows and bright spots.

Although if you want to include some sky in your photos, you can't beat a blue sky with fluffy clouds!

2. What's in your frame?

Unlike portrait photography, when you're photographing nature you really can get up close and personal and capture great detail in plants and flowers, without making your subject feel uncomfortable.

Have fun experimenting with angles to make your images more interesting. For wider shots you could think about shooting through other plants, so that you have out-of-focus flowers in the foreground. Or maybe there's an archway that you could use to frame your shot. 

Make sure you keep an eye on what's in the background of your photos though. You don't want to get home and go through them to find a litter bin spoiling the view!

3. Follow the 'rule of thirds'

Have you ever noticed in photos that the main focus or subject is to the side rather than slap bang in the middle? This is because the photographer has followed the 'rule of thirds' in their composition. Many believe this rule helps make photos more aesthetically pleasing.

To use it in your work, imagine 2 horizontal and 2 vertical lines, evenly spaced in your frame, dividing it into 9 sections. Where the lines cross is where you should think about placing your features.

4. Use a shallow depth of field

You don't have to have an expensive camera to take a great photo. Phone cameras have come a long way. But if you have a camera with a manual setting, you can try using a shallow depth of field. This is the effect you see when part of your image is sharp and the rest is soft and out of focus.

Photo shows bee visiting a flower by James Petts (Flickr)

For this you'll need a wide aperture (which is a low 'f' number such as f/2.8 or f/4). You'll need to adjust your ISO and shutter speed to make sure your your shots have the correct exposure.

5. Enjoy the process

When you're trying to capture the perfect photo it's easy to get caught up in the technical and forget to enjoy your environment.

Spending time in nature is a privilege, anything can happen if you're watching closely. Enjoy the moment and appreciate your surroundings.

6. Practice makes perfect

Like many things in life, practice makes perfect. Photography is one of those activities that you will only improve, the more you do it. Luckily for you, NGS have thousands of gardens open this summer just waiting to be snapped.

To find a garden near you visit the NGS website and use the Garden Finder to search for gardens by location, date and accessibility. 

Don’t forget to share your photo with us @mssociety.uk and use #ngscomp.

Happy snapping!

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Rebecca is a freelance photographer with relapsing MS. She lives in South London with her producer husband and two boys. Her twin passions are music and photography. You can see some of her work on her website.

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