No matter how gloomy the weather, I see my garden at the height of its glory every day. That’s the payoff I get from one of the best New Year’s resolutions I’ve ever made: taking pictures of my garden and creating a gallery of the photos inside my home.

Photo gallery

At season’s end, pick a few of your best photos and pay for top-quality prints and good frames for a gallery that you can be proud of and that your family and friends will admire.

Photo Credit: ©Pennystone Gardens

Thalictrum thalictroides

Late afternoon sunshine creates a dramatic effect, especially when photographing the white flowers of Anemonella thalictroides.

Photo Credit: ©Pennystone Gardens

Shasta Daisy Close-Up

Macro photography is practically a field by itself – and a fun challenge for garden photographers. The trick with this full-frame Shasta daisy was to keep it all in focus, from front to rear, with a very small aperture (f32) and long exposure (1.5 seconds).

Photo Credit: ©Pennystone Gardens

Blue Line Crop

Leave a little room in your pictures for photo cropping. The blue line here shows what would be included in an 8x10 print. Without that original buffer, you’d lose part of your image.

Photo Credit: ©Pennystone Gardens

Habit Shot

While close-ups are gorgeous, also shoot a picture of the entire plant to see which look you like best.

Photo Credit: ©Pennystone Gardens

The fact is, gardens in the Northeast look a bit sad and lonely in winter, and sometimes it feels like spring is never going to come. But one year, I had decided to photograph different parts of my garden at their peak. I took the most memorable images and had nice 8x10 prints made. I bought inexpensive 11x14 frames at a discount store and used the precut mats that came with the frames. Within an hour I had a nice gallery of photos that I now enjoy several times every day – no matter the weather or state of my garden.

Every time I look at these photos, memories of my garden spring to mind – lush, green, inviting memories. And as each winter passes, these very images inspire new garden plans for our next spring. And as my garden changes, so does my photo gallery. Each year I expand the collection a bit (or at least replace older photos).

Whether you’re looking to capture summertime memories in a garden gallery or you just want to learn how to snap some better images of your plants, here are a few photography tips you can take from me (and a few other terrific photographers I know) that’ll help you create stunning images to remember:

First off, you need good lighting. The best natural light of all is when the sky is “high overcast,” which means there are thin clouds that allow just enough light to form faint shadows. This gives the garden even illumination, yet it’s still bright enough to give you lots of freedom in exposures. Any kind of “cloudy” is better than full sunshine – that’s because light reflects off leaves and creates a whitish glare, which creates too much contrast in your photos.

Of course, you can’t control the clouds. So if you’re stuck with a blast of midday sunshine (gasp!), try to still enjoy the day and just use something to put your photo subject in a moment of shade – even if it’s your own body. Personally, I like to use photo reflectors (a big, round special cloth stretched on a flexible frame) because they’re easy to manage. While “reflectors” can be anything from white fabric to cardboard, you can find professional reflectors for about $25 at any camera shop.

The next best light for photography comes early or late in the day, when sunshine is trickling in from a low angle. Daybreak light is a bit more blue, and sunset light a bit more yellow – but either way, the light is always dramatic. It’s also good to know that sunrise offers the best chance for the least amount of wind. Even the slightest stirring of air can cause a flower stem to shudder, and close up, at slow shutter speeds, the movement blurs just enough to ruin a photo.

Another recommendation: Always work with your camera on a tripod. It’s impossible to keep an image perfectly still at anything under about 1/100th of a second. Tripods force you to really frame a shot with care and get it exactly right. And here’s another tip – use the self-timer that most cameras have these days to absolutely eliminate any camera movement caused by touching the shutter button.

To get that “perfect” shot, explore your subject for different angles and positions. Instead of just snapping your photo at eye level, get down on the ground and shoot right at or up toward the subject. And move closer and closer. Many cameras will automatically focus up to a foot and, with macro capabilities, you can even get within a couple of inches.

Try as many different and dramatic perspectives as you can get. When lining up your shot, leave some extra space, especially in the long direction of the frame. While many small snapshot sizes are close to the full proportion of the photo, blowing an image up into an 8x10 means some part of your picture will get trimmed. If you give the really key part of the composition just a little margin, you’ll have some latitude later when finalizing the photo for your gallery.

One more thing you should do is tidy up your garden before you shoot. Remove anything you don’t want in the picture, like plant labels, stakes, hoses or litter of any kind, and be sure to smooth the mulch. If you like, use an atomizer to simulate dew or recent rain – but don’t overdo it. A wet leaf reflects a lot of light and can look unnatural.

Each season brings something new to your garden, so explore it with a shutterbug’s eye and snap some interesting shots. However you display your photos, the images are sure to bring back a flood of good garden memories – no matter what’s going on with Mother Nature outside.