Digital Cameras: The Rewards and Headaches

by Susan Harris on January 25, 2008

Much to my surprise, digital photography has taken my enjoyment of garden to a new level.  And because now I’m designing the garden with great photos in mind, the result looks better than ever.  

If you’ve come to digital photography recently, lucky you. I went digital in 2001 and ranted endlessly about the frustrations of getting it all to work.  Turns out I’d really never learned Windows and ya know, if you’re on a PC you live or die by Windows.  I finally got on board and have been having a blast ever since. Well, mostly.

The Camera

My first (which I remember far better than my first roll in the hay on the topCanon Powershot550 bunk of a college dorm room) was an Olympus C-2020Z, which set me back over $700 for a mere 2.1 megapixels. Meager resolution, and clunky, too. But those days are long gone.

Then, following recommendations of some wonderful garden photographers, I moved up to the amazing Canon Powershot SD550.  This time I paid about $350 for 7.1 megs!! And it’s small enough to fit into my pocket, any pocket. It even survived being badly abused at the beach about a month after I bought it, so I LOVE THIS CAMERA. 

I’m no technie (no kidding) so I’ll leave to others the exacting job of reviewing it.  I’ll just recommend it.  Reviews are here,and here, Canon’s info is here.  (In you’re in the buying mood I hope you’ll buy it here. and support this site, though.)  I notice on that link that Amazon sells 7.1-megapixel Canon Powershots for $127, which I find amazing.

The Photo Editor

I started out using the Adobe Photo Deluxe Home Edition that came Adobe Photoshop Elementsfree with my first camera, and it was okay for a while.  But if you want to do much at all with your photos – and who doesn’t? – ya gotta move up to something better, and Photoshop itself seemed the way to go.  Or in my case the slightly less gargantuan and much cheaper Photoshop Elements

Again, reviews are here and here and you can buy it here and support this site.  It’ll only set you back 80 bucks or so, compared with over $1,000 for the full-blown Photoshop itself, which has professional-level capacities you’ll almost surely never need.  Believe me, the more consumer-friendly Elements version does plenty.

Speaking of which, it’s still no picnic to learn.  I took an all-day class and it barely scratched the surface of what I needed to know to do the handful of things I need to do with it (crop, adjust colors and light levels, and that’s about it.) The manual wasn’t much help and I’ve found the best source of information to be on line, simply by Googling "Elements crop" or whatever function I need help with.  Good old Google.

Photo Browser

Now you’d think I’d have everything I need after buying the camera and the editing program and I thought so, too.  But for reasons I can’t even remember now I found the photo brower in Photoshop not to my liking, and followed a professional’s recommendation to use iView instead.  It lets me assign little tags to each photo so that I can search for, say, all the images with tulips in them.  Well, that was the idea.  Do you think I’ve actually followed through and done all that tag-assigning? Well, no, but if I ever have time…..  In any event, you can buy it here.

What camera do you use in the garden?  And how about your photo editor and browser?  


jodi January 25, 2008 at 8:49 pm

After a couple of point and shoot digitals which were terrific, I took the plunge about 15 months ago and bought an SLR: a Canon Rebel XT. Added on a 70-300 zoom lens and then late last summer, a macro lens. I run Mac computers, so I use iPhoto, Apple’s native software, to view, sort and store most of my images, and work in Adobe Photoshop CS when I’m preparing images for a client.

I stress that my camera is smarter than me (I’m a writer who takes photos, not a photographer) but I LOVE really seeing the plants, using the macro lens to look at things that I wouldn’t notice so well without the camera’s all-seeing eye. I think it makes me a better plant-addict, gardener, and writer.

Brent January 27, 2008 at 5:05 pm

Thanks for the great camera tips. I have an older camera and it takes pretty good shots but I am looking to upgrade. I like taking close up shots of my flowers so these tips will come in handy. Thanks :)

admin February 1, 2008 at 8:47 am

Here’s a comment that was sent to me via email.

Thought I’d just add my thoughts on digital garden photography.

Like you I use Adobe Photoshop Elements but also including the photo organiser. The great thing about this software is that you can assign multiple ‘tags’ to photographs. So, as I photograph a lot of vegetables for my website,, I often tag them with the vegetable name and then also with a tag such as ‘Use for Blog’ or ‘Container gardening’ etc. It’s really easy to then filter all my photographs by tag name and immediately find that photo of basil growing in pots.

Also, with the brilliant book on Photoshop Elements by Scott Kelby (‘The Photoshop Elements 6 Book for Digital Photographers’) you get a really good guide showing you how to do quite advanced photo editing in a few simple steps (without having to pay for the full version of Photoshop.) So it becomes easy, for example, to cut out a courgette from its background and lighten the surrounding objects then paste it back in. The vegetable equivalent of airbrushing…!

For a camera, I use the Canon 350D (marketed in the U.S. as the ‘Digital Rebel’.) It’s a digital SLR camera which is probably above what most gardeners would want to use. But there’s one killer feature that really helps in the garden – you can adjust the aperture as well as the overall exposure and I often use this to blur the background of an image (by reducing the ‘depth of field’), so that the foreground (usually a vegetable or plant) really stands out. I’ve attached a photo of buckwheat (grown as a green manure) to illustrate this.
Anyway, hope this is of interest
Warm regards,
Jeremy Dore

M. D. Vaden March 28, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Previously, I had a Canon S1 IS with 3.2 megapixel and x 10 zoom.

For years. Then last year, I bought a Canon A650 IS with 12 megapixels and x 6 zoom – it’s basically a Canon G9 minus the frills.

And this February, I paid roughly $370 for a Canon SX10 IS which has 10 megapixels and x 20 zoom. I chose this camera because I need to take photos of the upper parts of trees, as well as small things near ground level. For the money and simplicity, it seemed like a good choice. $370 is pretty decent for x 20 zoom.


Mario Vaden
Beaverton, Oregon

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