Making mushroom photos:
stalking the elusive fungus!


Mushroom photos, close-up

If you haven't tried making mushroom photos before, prepare for a treat, and the possibility of getting hooked! Mushrooms come in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and sizes that will keep close-up and macro photographers entertained for years.

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi. Despite intense scientific study, there is still a lot about mushrooms and fungi that we don't understand.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert on edible mushrooms, and this is not a site about collecting edible mushrooms! The photographs presented here are not a gallery of edible mushrooms! This page is only about mushroom photography, making pictures of fungi, and inspiring its readers to make mushroom photos! 

Now that that's out of the way, here are the other pages in this Macro Photography Subjects section:

A brief mycology* lesson

Mushroom photos, close-up

About mushrooms:
  • They are the fruiting bodies of fungi. They produce spores, which are akin to seeds in plants.
  • Fungi are not plants or animals. They occupy their own biological Kingdom (of which biologists describe five others: Animals, Plants, Bacteria, Protists, and Archaea).
  • Fungi cannot produce their own food, like plants, nor do they have internal digestion, like animals. They break down organic matter by secreting digestive chemicals.
  • Fungi are either parasitic (feed on living things), saprophytic (feed on dead or decaying organic matter), or mycorrhizic (live in partnership with plants in their root zone).
  • Mushrooms are just one above-ground part of what can be a huge underground organism.
  • Nature's most efficient recyclers, fungi produce a fantastic variety of chemicals that digest wood and other organic materials, making nutrients available to plants and animals, and playing an essential role in the nutrient cycle.
  • Toadstools are mushrooms, too. I grew up learning that toadstools are mushrooms known to be poisonous, but that sloppy terminology has been abandoned.
  • Many mushrooms are edible, but most are not and some are deadly. Non-experts should assume all mushrooms are inedible!
  • Part of the fun of mushroom hunting, and making mushroom photos, is that you never know when and where they will pop up! Experts can make good guesses, but in truth, making pictures of fungi is a crap-shoot. Fungi act on their own calendar, to a set of priorities they keep secret.

* The study of fungi.

Finding mushrooms: "Getting your eyes on"

If you want to practice mushroom photography, and to get good mushroom pictures, you will have to do some hunting. Not to worry: that's part of the fun!

Fungi are everywhere in nature, but not all of them produce photogenic mushrooms. To tip the odds of finding them in your favor, try searching in these habitats:

  • Woodlands (check fallen logs)
  • Grasslands, gardens and lawns
  • Disturbed ground
  • Manure piles
  • Burned areas
  • Roadsides and parking areas

Mushroom photos, giant puffballMy daughter and me with
a giant puffball mushroom!

The expression "getting your eyes on" refers to the process of training your eyes to find mushrooms in and among leaves and other debris that cover them up.

Many mushroom hunters describe the experience of searching and searching for a particular mushroom without success, and then, once the first one has been found, suddenly seeing more and more, even in the areas they had previously covered.

If you're out for mushroom photos, and not for dinner, you have much more mushroom variety to choose from. Mushrooms you'd never consider eating can make great macro photography subjects!

Seven Tips for making Mushroom Photos

  1. Equipment: If you're getting started, use whatever camera you have available. Even point-and-shoot compact cameras can make wonderful mushroom photos, but they have one major flaw: no auto-focus override, so precision focus is a matter of chance!

    If you're ready to upgrade, review my macro photography equipment pages. A full macro photography rig includes a camera, macro lens or other close-up photography accessories, tripod, some light modifiers, and (optional) a flash unit. Depending on where you will be working, take some time to review either my outdoor photography tips, or studio photography tips.

  2. To photograph hand-held or with a tripod? This depends on you, and on the amount and type of light that is available. Many mushrooms grow in dark areas, so expect to either place your camera on a tripod or add light with a macro flash unit, such as a ring flash. My personal preference when photographing mushrooms outdoors is to use a tripod, small aperture, and long shutter speeds. This reveals the context of their environment better than flash. If you find mushrooms growing in an open, brighter area, by all means photograph them hand-held, using just the available light. Hand-held photographers: be aware of camera shake!

  3. The best tripods for mushroom photography allow camera placement low to the ground. This can be either a small unit with short legs, or a larger tripod with a reversible center column. Check out the camera support page for a review of this important topic, and to pick up some ideas about alternative types of camera support.

  4. Mushroom pictures can be made in the wild, where they grow, or indoors under controlled conditions. Either method is valid, and can produce stunning photos. Review the outdoor photography page for tips and advice about protecting yourself and your equipment from the elements. Review the studio photography page for helpful advice on setting up a small indoor macro photography space.

  5. Mushrooms like damp, cool weather. They typically appear a day or two after rain has fallen. Or not: mushrooms appear when they are good and ready, and not according to clockwork! Knowledgeable mushroom hunters know this, and always keep an open mind about what they expect to find.

  6. Generally speaking, mushrooms like shade. Mushrooms are most commonly found in wooded areas, however, open, shady areas can be productive, too.

  7. Because mushrooms pop out at ground level, prepare to work close to the ground. Carry a tarpaulin or plastic sheet to protect yourself, and your photography gear from what could be wet, soggy ground. The best perspective for mushroom photography may be on your belly!

Here's some of the variety of shapes and sizes you'll encounter when making mushroom photos:



What's your approach to Mushroom Photography?

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