Low-key botanical photo Gallery 2023

All the photos in this gallery were taken in my house or garden, between August 2022 and April 2023. This is my second low-key photo set, the first being posted in April 2022, which you can view here.

For me, botanical photography is not simply photographing plants, but capturing something of their natural structure or geometry. Every plant is a work of art in its own right: a marvel of organic growth: life, death, reproduction. A successful botanical photograph should tell an intimate story about some aspect of the plant: the arc of its stems; the curl of its petals; the symmetry or asymmetry of its parts. When this succeeds, there is an unmistakable sense of ‘art’ conveyed by the image as well as a deepening sense of knowing the plant. In short, the art of the botanical photographer is to bring out the intrinsic art of the plant.

In the studio, low-key photography uses only a single light source — the key-light — without in-fill or backlight. This produces very dramatic, high contrast images where the subject is often only partly lit, while the background is very dark or even completely black. I find I can get similar results in the garden by photographing plants against deep shadow or a black fence, while simultaneously underexposing the shot. This style is perfectly suited to botanical photography, as it helps part of the plant to stand forth clearly, without the distraction of its surroundings. The results can be arresting, leading the viewer to see the botanical world afresh.

Keir Watson

3 thoughts on “Low-key botanical photo Gallery 2023”

  1. Keir, I’ve been a great admirer of your photography for a while, but this gallery of brilliant work breaks new ground. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    I could understand if you want to keep your method a secret, but if not, perhaps I can ask a question that would help others inspired to emulate it. You mentioned that you are “photographing plants against deep shadow or a black fence, while simultaneously underexposing the shot”. Could you please explain a bit more about how you do it, perhaps with some normally exposed photos with less zoom or from further back to show context?

  2. Thank you Tim for you kind words of support, I really appreciate them.

    Re: my techniques, I started writing what was becoming an overly long reply to you, but it crashed and I lost it! However, I think I’ll make a blog post instead, so thank you for the prompt, and look out for a new post in the coming weeks!

    There is no secret, but like everything in photography it’s about trial and error, practise and learning from others. The university of YouTube is where I studied photography!


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