Growth Rings

Photographing people and trees

Posted on February 12, 2014 at 7:52 pm

By Brighton West

Chijo Takeda, of Chijo Takeda Photography, has been a long-time volunteer photographer for Friends of Trees. On Tuesday he stopped by to teach the staff how to be better photographers – even with an iPhone or point-and-shoot camera. His tips were so good, we decided to share them on our blog.  These are in no particular order – just things we all thought were key to successful photography:

Use flash & not at eye-level

Use your flash during the day. Chijo pointed out that rootballs and planting holes are really dark – and a flash can make them come to life. Also, volunteers often wear hats on planting day, and a flash is a great way to get a little more light on their faces.

Not eye level. Chijo revealed that he seldom takes a photo from eye level.  Hold the camera high or low. Just because our eyes are at eye level doesn’t mean that’s the best place to take a photo from.

Rule of thirds & happy people

Rule of thirds. If you divide a photograph into nine equal rectangles, our eyes are drawn to the intersections – so frame your photo by putting key elements on these points.

Happy people. Don’t try to make a sad person smile. Start by looking for a happy person and photograph them.


Contrast. Young trees can get lost in the background.  Look for contrasting backgrounds to make trees pop out.

Bright colors & stick with people

Color. Look for people wearing bright colors that will look good in photos. Chijo said that he normally scans the crowd for smiley, bright people and follows them around an event.

Patience. Take lots of photos of the same person – some might be boring, but sooner or later you get the winning shot.

Stick with people. We don’t need to photograph every person at a planting. Results can be better by sticking with one or two people for 10-15 minutes at a time. And people get used to having a photographer around. After a few minutes they will act more naturally.

Bad Jokes. You don’t need to ask people to “Say Cheese.” You can just say something funny and you’ll get a real smile.

– Brighton is the Deputy Director for Friends of Trees.



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One Response to “Photographing people and trees”

  1. These tips are great, thanks for posting! I need to be more diligent on taking photos on-the-job of both before/after images and action ones – I’m an arborist with my own business Coniferae Tree Care so it would certainly be handy to add more tree care images to my site if I can manage to take some good ones.

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