In this guide, I’ll be covering everything you need to know about photographing mushrooms.
We’ll be diving into the definition of mushroom photography, tips to improve your mushroom photography, the best time to take mushroom photos, where you can find interesting mushrooms, and lots more.
With that being said, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
What Is Mushroom Photography?
Mushroom photography is essentially the art of capturing images of fungi, or mushrooms, in their natural habitats using a camera.
Picture yourself traipsing through moist woodlands or weaving between the tombstones in a historical churchyard, eyes cast down, searching for that perfect specimen. It’s like being on a treasure hunt.
Think of mushrooms as nature’s unique sculptures waiting to be discovered, each one with distinct features – a panoply of colors, a variety of shapes, a myriad of textures.
Picture a red apple cap mushroom with its glossy exterior or the regal hues of a purple cort for instance.
Even the term “mushroom photography” fails to fully represent the diversity of fungi, much like calling all shades from aquamarine to navy just “blue”.
Once you’ve spotted a mushroom, the real fun begins. Recall those times when you tried to capture a perfect portrait.
You adjust the lighting, fix the hair, perhaps add a sprinkle of water to the subject’s face for that fresh, dewy look – it’s similar with mushroom photography.
You might find yourself picking up leaves, arranging them just so, to add depth to your shot or creating the appearance of rain droplets on the mushroom for that extra touch of realism.
In mushroom photography, you get to experiment with different photographic techniques.
Imagine a chef adjusting flavors in a recipe: A pinch of salt here, a dash of spice there.
Similarly, you might consider a narrow depth of field to make your mushroom pop from the backdrop, or perhaps a wide-angle lens to capture the mushroom within its grand, natural setting.
Ever played with toy building blocks? Think of different lenses and techniques as such building pieces that you can mix and match to bring your creative vision to life.
But just like any good recipe needs the right ingredients, successful mushroom photography requires careful examination and knowledge.
Understanding different types of fungi, their occurrence, and preferred habitats increase your chances in finding the special ones.
It’s like becoming a nature detective on a mission to uncover the hidden wonders of the mushroom kingdom.
Lastly, like that popular saying, “practice makes perfect”, understanding and mastering the techniques of mushroom photography – focusing, composition, lighting, to name a few – can take some time.
But the beauty of this process is that you’re not alone.
You are part of a community of nature photographers, all passionate about capturing the exquisite artistry that mushrooms have to offer.
12 Tips for Photographing Mushrooms
Here are my top 12 tips for photograph mushrooms so you can take better mushroom photography:
1. Choose the Right Time of Day
The first tip when it comes to mushroom photography is to choose the right time of day.
You’ll want to try and photograph mushrooms during the early morning or late afternoon when their is soft light.
If you shoot midday, then you may have to deal with direct, overhead sunlight which could create harsh shadows and ruin the aesthetic of your mushroom photos.
2. Use a Tripod
The second tip when it comes to mushroom photography is to use a tripod.
Mushrooms are often found in low-light conditions because they are in dense forests, because of this, you may need to use a slower shutter speed in order to allow more light to hit your camera sensor.
The only problem with this, is that slower shutter speeds could cause camera shake unless you are using a form of stabilization such as a tripod.
3. Mind the Composition
The third tip when it comes to mushroom photography is to mind the composition.
Similar to other niches of photography, composition plays a critical role in the overall visual appeal of your photograph.
Also, be sure to experiment with different angles.
4. Focus on the Details
The fourth tip when it comes to mushroom photography is to focus on the details.
Mushrooms have very intricate textures, shapes, and patterns.
You’ll want to focus on these details when photographing them.
In order to do so, I recommend using a macro lens or macro mode on your camera so you can get up close and personal.
5. Background Matters
The fifth tip when it comes to mushroom photography is to choose a background that complements your mushroom subject.
Opting for a clean, uncluttered background will allow your mushroom to stand out.
Pair a clean background with a shallow depth of field and your mushroom will be looking like the center of attention!
6. Use Natural Light
The sixth tip when it comes to mushroom photography is to use natural light.
I’ve found natural light will bring out the colors and textures of the mushroom beautifully.
By choosing the right time of day as mentioned earlier, the soft and even lighting will be perfect for mushroom photography.
7. Experiment with Aperture
The seventh tip for mushroom photography is to experiment with your aperture.
Aperture is in charge of controlling the depth of field in your image.
A wider aperture (lower f-stop number) will create a shallow depth of field helping you isolate the mushroom from its surroundings.
8. Pay Attention to Colors
The eight tip for mushroom photography is to pay attention to the colors in the scene.
Mushrooms and its surrounding environments come in various colors and can be stunning focal points within your scene.
Be sure to find the mushroom with the best natural colors so you can capture them on camera.
Once captured, you can experiment with enhancing the colors in post-processing to make them stand out more. Just make sure not to overdo it.
9. Avoid Disturbing the Environment
The ninth tip for mushroom photography is to avoid disturbing the environment.
Similar to the previous article I wrote on urbexing, whenever you go into a delicate environment to photograph, you’ll want to be mindful of your impact on the surrounding area.
Be careful not to trample over fungi or other plants while searching for the perfect shot.
I also recommend using a reflector or diffuser when manipulating the light in your scene so you don’t damage the surroundings.
10. Capture Different Growth Stages
The tenth tip for mushroom photography is to capture different growth stages.
Mushrooms go through different growth stages, each possessing its own unique charm.
I recommend you study up on the basics of the growth stages so you can know and capture them in different stages — emerging from the ground to being fully mature.
11. Consider Depth and Perspective
The eleventh tip for mushroom photography is to consider your depth and perspective.
I recommend utilizing elements in your foreground, middle-ground, and background in order to create a sense of depth and perspective in your shots.
For example, having a mushroom in the foreground with the dense forest in the background is a great way to capture a mushroom.
By playing around with your depth and perspective, you can add interest and dmension to your photos.
12. Post-Processing Enhancement
The twelfth tip for mushroom photography is regarding post-processing enhancement.
Once you’ve captured your shots, it’s time to consider post-processing in order to enhance your images further.
Adjusting certain elements of the photo such as contrast, saturation, and sharpness can bring out the best in your images and allow you to showcase a more captivating visual image.
Who Can Benefit From Mushroom Photography?
Almost anyone who has an interest in nature, photography, or perhaps even fungi in general can benefit from mushroom photography.
Imagine you’re a nature enthusiast. Your hike through a golden autumn woodland suddenly becomes not just a walk, but a treasure hunt. As you bend low to the forest floor, you’re not merely a passerby.
You become a detective, on the lookout for the finest mushroom specimens.
You carefully search the woodland floor as if you’ve switched your regular lens to a macro lens, noticing species you might have overlooked before.
If you’re a photographer, be it amateur, hobbyist, or professional, mushroom photography can be a wonderful extension to your portfolio.
Like an artist exploring with a different medium, for instance, a painter trying out chalk pastels instead of the usual oils.
Mushroom photography allows you to delve into a different genre. It challenges you to experiment with different lenses, lighting, and compositions.
It asks you to see the world from a lower vantage point, much like trying to see from a child’s eyes in an adult’s world.
Mycologists, the scientists who study fungi, can also greatly benefit from mushroom photography.
Just as astronomers capture images of stars and galaxies to better study and understand the cosmos, a mycologist can benefit from photographs of different fungi species in their natural habitats.
These images can be studied for their unique features, colors, shapes, and textures, furthering their research and understanding of these fascinating organisms.
While mushroom photography presents endless opportunities for professional photographers and mycologists, the beauty of it is that even a complete rookie can dip their toes in this unique field.
Even with the smallest of cameras or smartphones, anyone can start chasing the fungi.
When Is The Best Time To Take Mushroom Photos?
Autumn is considered ideal for capturing stunning images of mushrooms.
The reason for this is quite straightforward: it’s during this time of the year that nature puts on a magnificent display and fungi, with their incredible colors, shapes, and textures, become visibly prominent in various habitats, just like stars shining vividly in the clear night sky.
Imagine you’re an artist, paintbrush in hand—or in this case, your camera.
You carefully arrange your tools — either macro lenses or extension tubes, depending on how detailed you want your artwork to be.
Think of that mushroom as your model sitting, waiting for you to paint it in the best light.
Think of each shot as telling a unique story through a single frame, where every detail plays a role in building its narrative.
Where photographing the spores adds a touch of mystery, as if reading a suspense novel, creating the appearance of rain droplets on the mushroom may add a breathless sense of realism to the photo, like watching a high-definition movie come to life.
Remember, mushroom photography is not just about aiming and shooting but more about careful planning and strategy, like a carefully thought-out chess move.
Cleaning up the area slightly or removing any distracting elements, such as dead branches, can enhance the overall look of the photo, much like applying finishing touches to a masterpiece.
In the end, the secret to great mushroom photography is about appreciating the beauty of these humble fungi and reflecting that in your photos.
Where Can You Find Interesting Mushrooms To Photograph?
Mushrooms are hidden treasures of nature and can be found in various locations. Think of them as occasional neighbors you might run into while on a pleasant evening stroll.
These fascinating fungi are often found in woodlands, grasslands, but sometimes even in unusual places like churchyards.
Your local woods could be the equivalent of an urban jungle for fungi.
Woodland environments are often a goldmine for mushroom photography, where you might discover a wild, colorful variety nestled among mossy trees and leaves.
Just as city dwellers love their urban parks scattered with pedestrians, dogs and pigeons, fungi absolutely thrive in these moist, shaded environments.
But, don’t snub your nose at grasslands either. They might appear as simple as a minimalist’s dream home, but they are like shopping malls for different mushroom species.
Given the right conditions, you could uncover a treasure trove of these earthy jewels, much like stumbling upon a seldom-seen aisle in a vast department store brimming with unique finds.
Interestingly, you might find the trip to your local churchyard incredibly rewarding too.
A churchyard can be as unexpected a home for mushrooms as finding a coin in your shoe!
These often-ancient sites can provide the perfect environment for mushrooms to grow, particularly in the dappled light beneath old, gnarly Yew trees.
Why Is Mushroom Photography Popular?
Mushroom photography is an adventure, a treasure hunt for nature photographers, a source of inspiration that mushrooms offer, making them a popular subject for photography.
From the tiniest delicate details to their unique structures, mushrooms present an incredible variety of photo opportunities.
And with the right lens – maybe a macro lens or an extension tube – you can delve into these details and create shots as magical as any fairy tale.
Consider, for instance, simply changing your vantage point. Remember building a fort as a child and seeing the house from a totally fresh, ground-level view?
Applying the same principle to photograph fungi, particularly from low angles, can open up captivating perspectives.
It’s akin to entering the mushroom’s world, giving the viewer a ‘mouse-eye’ view of the scene – suddenly, you’re in the realm of pixies and sprites.
Moreover, mushrooms provide a wonderful opportunity to test your skills with depth of field and focus.
Just like shifting the spotlight onto the main actor on a stage, using a narrow depth of field can expertly isolate the mushroom, drawing the viewer’s attention to its unique features.
Experimenting with manual focus or dabbling in focus stacking techniques is akin to being the director of your own play, where the mushroom is the star, and you get to decide what stays sharp and what melts into a beautiful blur.
Finally, including surrounding elements, such as leaves or ferns, is like filling out the rest of the cast.
Just like the pumpkins and mice helped to enhance Cinderella’s magical moment, these elements can help add depth and context to your mushroom narrative.
So, next time you’re out with your camera, remember that mushroom photography isn’t just about a single shot. It’s an adventure. It’s a fairy tale. It’s a play you direct.
And all this – the creativity, the experimentation, the varied appeals of fungi becomes the reason for their soaring popularity in photography.
Nate Torres is a portrait photographer servicing the Orange County and Los Angeles areas. He specializes in portraits of individuals, couples, groups and headshots. Nate Torres is also a photography writer and content creator and educates other photographers on portrait photography, composition, editing, gear, and business. You can find his content on his personal website, social media, and YouTube Channel, as well as on blogs such as Fstoppers, Photofocus, and Imaginated. Being a former SEO consultant, Nate also teaches other photographers how to use SEO to grow their own photography business on his educational blog, Shutter SEO.