Photography Lesson in a Garden by Susan Harris



David demonstrates the correct way to hold a camera.

As an eager but very amateur photographer, I’ve attended all sorts of photography classes and talks, with little improvement to show for it. Then I stumbled upon a teaching method and classroom setting perfect for me – a “photo safari” with an extraordinary teacher and a small class of enthusiasts in a stunning garden-like setting. Unlike most classes, it was very hands-on, and FUN.

Especially helpful was that we could immediately try things that teacher David Luria suggested and get his immediate feedback on the results, thanks to the viewing capabilities of digital cameras. He spotted the incorrect setting on my camera’s function wheel and fixed it immediately, with an explanation.

Here are some lessons I learned on DC’s Cherry Blossom Safari.


When photographing a group, arrange them like this – feet turned to the center, not straight ahead.


Even large, heavy cameras can be held steady if the proper stance is used.

Park Service3

David told us that the biggest difference between amateur and professional photographers is that amateurs are too far away from the subject. The photo left isn’t nearly as effective as the one on the right, which could be an even tighter shot.

One trick to make photos more interesting is to include people in them especially the ones with bold-colored clothing, like the red stripes on this class member. If you don’t have their permission, it’s best to not show their faces, though. (David confessed to having stalked people wearing orange shirts for some great shots.


David chose this gnarled cherry tree to pose a class member and instructed the class to come in close – closer than this, even. Also, shoot from below the subject’s eyes.


The photographer on the left is getting a nice close shot.

In addition to these and many more compositional tips, David taught us F-stop tips, how to blur or stop action, when to use fill flash and polarizing filters, and more. He was familiar with everyone’s cameras and customized his tips accordingly.

Other Locales in DC, and Elsewhere?

Photo safaris are available in these garden-like settings throughout the season: Monuments and MemorialsHillwood Museum and Gardens, Mount VernonNational Mall by Circulator Bus, the National Zoo, and the FDR Memorial.

Anyone know if there are in-garden photography classes in other U.S. cities?

Photography Lesson in a Garden originally appeared on Garden Rant on May 13, 2016.


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