EVER thought about how to capture frost-covered holly, close-ups of pretty petals or swathes of woodland bulbs in fading light? writes Hannah Stephenson.

If you’ve not had much success taking good pictures of your plants, eminent flower and plant photographer Clive Nichols offers some useful pointers on how aspiring horticultural photographers can create pictures to frame proudly.

“If you’re shooting outdoors, give yourself the best possible chance of success and select somewhere photogenic. A well-maintained public or privately-owned garden,” says Nichols, who runs online courses on the subject.

The National Gardens Scheme (ngs.org.uk) has thousands of gardens that open nationwide to the public in all seasons, so check on your nearest open garden and go and visit.

Take note of the weather, he advises.

“Unless you want shots with subject movement, you should ideally shoot on a day when there’s little wind. I use sites like BBC Weather to check on wind speeds and when they drop below 5mph that triggers me to go out and take pictures.”

One of the major mistakes that amateurs make when photographing plants and gardens is to shoot in bright sunlight.

“Shooting on overcast days with a bit of sunshine pushing through the clouds will undoubtedly yield better results as the soft, diffused light allows you to capture the subtle colour and texture of flowers and plants.”

For garden scenes, look for interesting features such as statues, topiary, fountains or sundials and shoot along pathways to lead the viewers’ eyes into the photo, Nichols advises.

“If the sky is dull and white then don’t include too much of it – use a zoom lens so that the sky is cropped out. If the sky has dramatic clouds, then use a wide angle lens to show a wider view. Combinations of colourful flowers in borders can be very photogenic, so again using a zoom lens to fill the frame with flowers works well. Things like plant labels or part of an ugly fence in the background can spoil a good picture.”

You don’t need a camera bag full of expensive equipment to shoot good horticultural photographs, he continues.

“It’s best to keep things simple for wider garden scenes and take just one or two lenses – ideally a zoom and a wide-angle. If you want to get in really close to your subjects and fill the frame with a small part of a flower or plant, a macro lens is the answer.

“Using a sturdy tripod certainly makes for sharper pictures. If you are hand-holding shots then try and use a fast shutter speed – say 1/250th second – to freeze the movement of flowers blowing in the wind.”

Most gardens look at their most colourful, vibrant best in spring and summer, but Nichols takes as many pictures in autumn and winter. So get up early to take some amazing photographs.

Clive Nichols’ next four-week online masterclass in plant and flower photography starts on March 7.

Visit my-garden-school.com