Top tips for spring photos

Photographing daffodils

Whether you’re an Instagrammer or amateur photographer you can have a go at capturing nature at its most spectacular in springtime. Plus, you can easily get started in your garden, local park or nearby National Trust place with just a camera phone or compact camera.

Thanks to our partner Panasonic, staff and volunteers with a flair for photography have got their hands on Lumix cameras to snap the natural world as they work. We’ve been catching up with these ambassadors to hear their top tips on getting great shots of trees, flowers and mini-beasts, such as frogs, ladybirds and bees, (with or without using top photography kit). Here’s what they said:

Where to start

Chris Johnson, Ranger at Allen Banks, Northumberland

My top tip for capturing spring would be to take a look at the trees, because at this time of year leaf buds are swelling and starting to burst open. My personal favourite is a hazel tree – I love its long yellow catkins and tiny red flowers, which bring a bit of colour to the woodland.

Buds blossoming in spring
Buds blossoming in spring
Buds blossoming in spring

You’ll need a still day to get the best photo as even a little breeze can disturb the catkins, making them difficult to focus on. Get the camera as close as you can to the catkin and see what’s in the background.

Try looking down the length of the branch, rather than straight at it, as you can fill the image with the rest of the tree giving your photo a nice backdrop.

Finding a subject

Hilary Daniel, Visitor Reception Assistant at Trelissick, Cornwall

Set your alarm early because dew on spring flowers makes a beautiful shot. When it comes to insects prepare to be patient. Butterflies and beetles won’t come to you, so you have to seek them out – try getting up close by lying on the ground. If you want to avoid muddy knees and elbows bring your own waterproof material like a thick bin bag.

I love photographing butterflies and a good tip is to try using a long lens (if you have access to one) so you don’t have to get too close and risk disturbing them (a bit like you’re the mini-beast paparazzi). 

Getting savvy with ‘bursts’ and shutter speed

Neil Jakeman, Volunteer at Saddlescombe Farm and Devil’s Dyke, West Sussex

If you’ve got your hands on a Panasonic Lumix, or a similar camera, then you can start experimenting with the size of the aperture (the ‘pupil’ of your lens) and your shutter speed – this is where you can really get striking shots. With a fast shutter speed you can have a go at capturing a fast-moving subject like a butterfly. You’ll need to set your aperture wide, to let in as much light as possible. Slow shutter speeds can help create motion blur images.

The bee is a vital part of a functioning ecosystem
Honey bee feeding on nectar rich plant
The bee is a vital part of a functioning ecosystem

Camera phones can take a great picture but at close range small movements from small creatures like beetles can mean you get blurry photos. Luckily most phones have a ‘burst’ mode, which means you’re likely to get one decent shot even if your tiny subject wanders out of focus while you’re shooting – how selfish.

Focusing your lens

Rob Coleman, Education Officer at Sheringham Park, Norfolk

Getting the right focus for close-up shots of small creatures can be tricky, especially when something like a ladybird is just a few centimetres away on a leaf. It’s a good idea to start off with a bigger subject like a toad or snail to get as much of its body in focus. 

A jewel of nature
Green beetle
A jewel of nature

If you’re looking to try your hand at using a more professional camera to capture those really tiny beasties, use a narrower aperture to focus in. You’ll need to use a slower shutter speed to let more light in but this means your camera has to stay still. I suggest using a tripod, but that can be difficult with a bee buzzing from flower to flower.

Another option is to try with flash. Adding light means you don’t have to have such a narrow aperture to get a sharp shot. Plus you can still hold the camera in your hand.

Meet the experts and pick up more top tips

If you’re looking to get picture-perfect then head down to one of the Panasonic Lumix Photography Roadshows running between May and September this year. A professional photographer will be on hand for advice and you’ll be able to try out the latest Panasonic kit free of charge. You can also join a photography walk and get a memory card to take home.