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Photographing Mushrooms and Fungi

written by: Ryan C.•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 10/27/2009

Ever come across a cool looking mushroom? In this article, we outline techniques to capturing the beauty in fungi.

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    Introduction

    Mushrooms belong to the fungi kingdom and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures, and colors. They are generally small and grow close to the ground in damp, moist conditions. Capturing their beauty requires a few special techniques that we will outline today.

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    The Techniques

    get down low Get down Low

    First and foremost, you must get down low to the ground or where the mushroom(s) are growing, preferably using a tripod and remote shutter release (or camera’s self timer) to get nice tack sharp images. Taking pictures of mushrooms from a standing height is boring and makes your subject small. Why not get down to the level of your subject and see from a unique perspective what it really looks like. This technique should also be applied to flowers, children, and anything shorter than your standing height. It just isn’t nice to shoot down on someone or something.

    If you can, also try placing the camera below the mushroom to capture the underside of the fungi in addition to a level shot.

    Photo by hans s

    Get Up Close With MacroGet close and down low 

    Fill the frame, get in tight with your subject. This will make it larger than life and allow you to capture minor details that you would otherwise miss. To get closer to the mushrooms or other subjects, you can use a dedicated macro lens (recommended), a zoom lens with a macro feature (ability to focus close), close-up filters which screw onto the front of your lens and allow you to focus closer than the minimum focusing distance (MFD), or the macro function if you have a point and shoot.

    Photo by mikesalibaphoto

    Now Back Up

    Include the surroundings Once you’ve learned a rule or technique, it can also be fun and add creativity to break with convention and try something different. By backing up, you will get a wider field of view and depth of field. This allows you to capture the setting of the mushroom and help give a sense of perspective to the scene.

    Photo by orvalrochefort

    Use Off Camera Lighting

    You could use on-camera flash, but that would be boring and probably look too harsh and you already know how to do that. Regardless, you should be using a tripod anyway to stabilize your camera and get as much light as it will need to properly expose your fungi. The alternative way is to light your subject from one side or from above while underexposing the background. This way all of the light and attention is focused on your subject (the mushrooms) and it will really make it pop. With strobist style lighting (off camera flash), you can light the mushrooms in an infinite number of ways using bare, modified, gridded, or diffused lighting. The second photo above demonstrates off-camera lighting acting as fill light.