Great Places To Photograph – Conservatories

If you aren’t lucky enough to live someplace where the temperature is warm all year long then there is a pretty fair chance you’re looking for a great place to photograph indoors during inclement weather.  For those of you living in warm weather all year long I hope you appreciate not shoveling snow from your driveway, freezing your fingers off while pumping gas, carefully walking to your car on a sheet of ice, and all the other wonderful things that come with a cold winter.  For the rest of us, there are a few great options if you want to keep the dust off your camera this winter and one of them has thousands of stationary photography subjects that will allow you to sharpen your camera skills while having fun.  A morgue!  Just kidding, it’s a conservatory.

In Pittsburgh we have the Phipps Conservatory which is world-renowned and chalk full of beautiful plants.  If you live in the Pittsburgh area they are open until 11pm every night until the end of December to showcase the various light displays throughout the conservatory.  Check with your local conservatory and there is a good chance they do something special for the season.

You can practice macro, playing with depth of field, low light photography.  If you own a flash the conservatory is a great place to practice mastering it, just don’t blind other visitors.  Take a friend and have them hold a reflector for you if you prefer natural lighting or have not mastered flashes yet.


Shoot in RAW – you will be pulling details from the shadows if the lighting is poor.

Take your fastest lens – the smallest f/number you can find will give you more light to assist your cameras auto focus and allow you to use lower ISO.

Take your macro lens – Not only are flowers beautiful up close but using a macro lens will eliminate some of the distracting elements of shooting indoors, you can trick the viewers of your photos to think you were outside.

Check the Conservatory for special hours for photographers – lots of conservatories have special hours for photographers so they can bring in their tripods and gear without getting in people’s way.  If you aren’t going to go during those special hours then I’d recommend leaving your tripod at home, you’ll feel like a puts if you’re holding everyone up on the narrow path ways with your tripod… well you should.

If you don’t own a macro lens – Don’t worry, if you don’t own a macro lens then zoom your lens out as far as it will go and move in as tight to your subject as possible (if the lens won’t focus then you’ve moved to close, step back a tad).

Be respectful and take your time – The great thing about the conservatory is the flowers aren’t going anywhere.  Take your time and be mindful of other people.  If someone is behind you then move to the side and allow them to pass so you can take your time with your photography rather than trying to rush through.

Change Perspective – You’ll have a chance to photograph flowers from all different angles, try to get beneath, beside, and all around your subjects.  Take multiple shots of each subject.

Don’t just photograph the plants – There are plenty of other subjects in conservatories, especially older ones like the Phipps that have decorations that are older than you.  Look around and keep an eye out for interesting subject matter.

Where are your favorite places to photograph?  Feel free to let us know with some sample shots showing us why you like it so much.  You can submit them by using the Submit an Article page.  Enjoy!

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