Creating classic, heirloom photographic artwork in Baltimore, Maryland

Spring is here! It's time to visit Sherwood Gardens

When the flowers are blooming, it is the perfect time to visit Sherwood Gardens in the Guilford neighborhood of Baltimore. The tulips and azaleas blanket the six-acre park in glorious color in late April and early May, when more than 50,000 tulips will be in peak bloom, providing a natural backdrop for your family photos.  This pastoral oasis is completely maintained with private funds and is free for the public to enjoy. You will find some other helpful FAQs on the website.

Here are some tips for using your cell phone for taking pictures that pop in any outdoor setting.

It's All About the Light

The first consideration is the time of day. The grounds are open from dawn to dusk every day. Later in the day, when the sun has dropped lower in the sky, will be the better time so that you can avoid the harsh light of the sun. 

Place your family members in open shade; i.e, a shaded area that is still illuminated by the light around it. Standing in shade and facing outward toward the light will provide a soft light on the faces as well as catchlights in the eyes from the sky. Catchlights are those bright, specular highlights that are a reflection of the light source. They give the eyes dimension and sparkle. Without them, the irises are flat.

It's very popular to place your subjects with the sun behind them. This will add a lovely light to the back of the heads. Have them stand and look for their shadows to be in front of them. You, as the photographer, will be facing the sun. You may need to move to the left or right to have the light that is backlighting the subjects not be causing a haze in your lens that will lose the effect of the backlight in the image.

Look at the ground where the subjects are standing. Are there blotches of light? If so, move your subjects until they are not standing in any dappled light.

Pick a Spot

Avoid the "black hole" that dark tree trunks cause when they are in the shade behind your subjects. Find a "clean" spot by rotating yourself or your subjects a little and/or changing the direction (high or low) from which you are taking the photo to help resolve that issue.

Also, make sure no tree trunks are "growing" out of the subject(s)' heads.

In the garden setting, the tulips are low to the ground, so you may want to have your subjects seated on the ground, perhaps on a blanket. If they are seated directly on the green grass, you may find that the reflection of the greenery will tint your subjects' skin.

Focus and Framing

Pose family members so that their heads are fairly parallel to one another, on one plane. That may mean squinching someone in a second row a bit forward. This is to make sure that everyone is in focus.

Hit that focus square on your screen to make sure you are focusing in on your subjects. Also, use the slider to lighten or darken.


For individual or couple photos, use the “rule of thirds.”  It’s very common to place the subject(s) smack dab in the middle of the frame. It is much more pleasing to the eye if the subject is given space to “move” in the frame. Your phone may have a grid feature that you can use to position your subject along one of the intersecting points.              


Take some close-ups using the Portrait setting on your cell phone.  That will blur the background and ensure that your subjects are the focal point of the photo.

Instead of using the zoom on the phone (that isn't very good), zoom "with your feet" and get closer to your subject(s).

Colors that Complement

Wear clothing that will enhance the entire image. That means simple, color-coordinating (not matching) outfits. The less pattern, the better; and shirts without advertising or statements that could be distracting will create the best images. A soft, light color palette works well with spring flowers. A trip over to the Pinterest website can help you decide.

If it is a bit chilly, keep warm with layers rather than coats, at least for the time you are taking the photos.

The Most Important Tip

Whew! You are thinking that those are a lot of things to think about. These technical elements help ensure that the photo is properly exposed, sharp, and visually engaging. However, THE MOST IMPORTANT tip I have for you, as you document your family's everyday life, is to embrace the moment. Candid moments often capture the most genuine and heartfelt emotions. Try to create a relaxed environment where your family members can be themselves and forget that they are on camera.

If you visit Sherwood Gardens this Spring, I'd love to see your pictures.

I hope you enjoyed the Tips for Springtime Outdoor Cellphone Photos that I shared today. If you are interested in talking with me about an outdoor photo session, let's chat. If you aren't quite ready but want to stay connected, follow me on Facebook and let's be friends!

Gray-haired man sitting on bench in front of red azaleas at Sherwood Gardens Baltimore MD

Side Note

If you have an interest in architecture, you will also find the neighborhood surrounding Sherwood Gardens to your liking. Here is an article describing the architectural influences of some of the most beautiful homes in Baltimore.