Capturing a garden’s vitality through a camera’s lens can pose a challenge — trying to do so in winter is even harder. Photographer Karen Bell has led seasonal photography workshops at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden since 2005. Here, she offers a few tips for creating compelling outdoor images.

1. In winter, natural light is at its “whitest” and the shadows at their longest, making for difficult, contrast-heavy conditions. Try shooting on an overcast day when the light is even and colors appear more “true.” 

2. Trees take on a graphic beauty without their leaves. Consider using back light to show the tree in silhouette. Or get close up with the light coming from one side and concentrate on the texture of the bark.

3. Because of the harsh lighting and stark lines, winter is an ideal time to experiment with black and white or sepia.

4. If it’s a windy day, select a slow shutter speed—1/60 or slower—to show motion.

5. For close-up shots, use a low aperture setting (F 2.8, for example) to bring the subject into focus and blur the background. Or, if your camera has it, try the macro setting. But don’t use the zoom feature on your lens while in macro mode, especially not with point-and-shoot cameras. Instead, physically move your camera closer or farther.

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