The Mushroom Project

mushroom and snail

Cinema > Technicolor Process 4 - Vibrant, also brightened, at 70%

I recently started photographing mushrooms. At first I didn’t think there were many mushrooms here in Raleigh, NC, but now that I’m looking I’m discovering them everywhere.

I used Exposure 4 on most of these photos. The captions list the presets used or a description of what I did. A percentage refers to the Overall Intensity slider at the top of the Color tab.

cluster of small orange mushroom and one ant

boosted red and yellow saturation by about 30

The main rule of mushroom photography is to get in the dirt. There is no getting around the fact that you’ll be doing deep knee bends, push ups, and rolling in the mud with ants crawling over you. The camera has to be down at the level of the mushroom for the shot to be interesting. Sometimes my camera is resting in the dirt and occasionally I dig a little hole to get the right position. I’m using a Canon S100 which is small enough to easily get down low.

white faerie ring mushroom

Cross Processing > Slide Film, at 50%

yellow fuzzy mushrooms

brightened midtones and yellow saturation

My camera is often down under the mushroom pointing up. In that position I try to avoid getting much open sky in the shot. You can’t expose for the sky and a dim mushroom at the same time. A green moss background is my favorite. Next best is bark or leaves.

puffball mushrooms in sepia tone

B&W Misc Effects > High Key - Platinum Toning (warm), but turned off halation on IR tab

I’m not a purist about the scene being completely natural. Usually I clean up debris a little. In one shot I strategically made a carpet of green leaves for contrast against the red mushroom.

red mushroom on cyan leaves

Cinema > Technicolor Process 2 (2-strip)

If you enjoy these then let me know in the comments and I’ll share more. For truly stunning mushroom photography get Taylor Lockwood’s book Treasures from the Kingdom of Fungi.

Update: I wrote another article on mushrooms that also shows off our Alt Photo iPhone app.

monochrome underside of mushroom cap

B&W Misc Effects > High Key - Glow & Sepia Tone

cluster of small bright orange mushrooms

Color Films - Slide > Fuji Velvia 100F, at 50%

yellow and red Caesar's Amanita mushrooms

no processing

Exposure X4

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About the Author:

Jeff Butterworth is the founder of Alien Skin Software. He used to create the products, but now he does marketing and gets coffee for the programmers.


  1. Tiffany September 23, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    These are great. My 5 year old is obsessed with mushrooms. We would love to see more.

    • Aly October 8, 2012 at 7:12 pm

      Wow, I can see why you’d be a little heianstt to go out on your own mushroom hunting. Of course, I’ve never had such a bad experience as that and I’m still a little scared of mushroom hunting. I like how Michal Pollan equates that all with a continent-wide fear of mushrooms.

  2. Corinna Hoffman September 24, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Wow, these are awesome!!

  3. Sandra Selle Rodriguez September 25, 2012 at 11:48 am

    These are beautiful Jeff. You and your team are awesome.

    • Gisel October 9, 2012 at 3:49 am

      It’s so true about the colors .. I love em too. The ntrauel browns and beiges mixed with shades of green, just gives such a warm, clean feeling. How fun! Thank you!!

  4. Carel Cramer September 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Pictures are stunning, last autumn I tried to make pictures in HD. Are there specifications of aperture and light conditions? I’m interested!


    • Jeff September 25, 2012 at 2:03 pm

      Thanks Carel and everyone else for the positive feedback.

      I like the diffuse lighting found in a forest. Direct sunlight is usually too harsh. In many of my shots I purposely blocked the sun with my body to avoid blown highlights and strong shadows. Mildly cloudy days were often better than sunny days.

      I recommend a wide aperture so you get short depth of field. That will blur the background and keep the attention on the subject. With my Canon S100 I usually used manual focus and got as close as I could. You can see that I usually got pretty soft bokeh in the background. The problem was that I was doing this hand-held and sometimes in awkward positions. That made focusing hard. At first I tried using a Gorillapod, but at the time it felt like too much hassle so I went hand-held. In the future I will probably start using a Gorillapod or some other tripod that can hold the camera near the ground. Then I can be more calm about the shot and can do longer exposures.

    • Udokwelu October 8, 2012 at 4:46 pm

      I wish we had the cool, moist areas down here required for neato mrsuhooms. Unfortunately all the cool moist areas down here are swamps and those are too salty for much in the way of mrsuhooms. Nothing here is cool or fertile long enough for the really interesting mrsuhooms. Plenty of stinkhorns, though. Lots and lots of those in spring and fall.

  5. Kelly Monroe September 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Who knew fungus amungus would be so beautiful~

  6. Arlene Taylor September 27, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Isn’t it amazing what we can find when we slow down enough to look at the details around us! Your mushrooms are inspiring.

    • Jeff October 15, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      Thanks, Mom! 🙂

  7. haeruddin October 8, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    amazing team !

  8. Elena October 9, 2012 at 1:51 am

    I saw people conmig out of High Park with paper bags full of mushrooms last year towards the end of the gardening season they obviously knew what they were doing (I hope)!

  9. More Mushroom Madness | Alien Skin Software October 24, 2012 at 10:01 am

    […] (typeof(addthis_share) == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}My mushroom photography project is surprisingly popular, so here are more highlights from my walks (and crawls) in the […]

  10. […] That’s how I discovered our heron population. I was going to try a new macro lens for mushrooms, but quickly gave up on finding any in near freezing weather. I was convinced that it had been a […]

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