The vivid colors of autumn are short-lived, even in areas with the brightest foliage, which means that you need to make the most of the fall photography opportunities when they’re available.
While it’s hard to go too wrong taking pictures in a multicolored autumn scene, the following tips will help you maximize the fall colors this season, creating awe-inspiring images.
Shoot on Overcast Days
There’s nothing wrong with shooting in bright sun, but you shouldn’t feel limited to this option. Strong sunlight can actually compromise the colors in a fall shoot, producing too much contrast and harsh shadows. If you’re shooting on a sunny day, get outside early in the day or wait until evening when the sun won’t be directly overhead. Overcast days are ideal because you can shoot through the entire day with soft, even light. The colors will appear more saturated and contrast beautifully against a gray sky.
Overcast fall days also present ideal conditions for fog and mist. Both of these elements further soften and mute colors while adding to the mood and even the mystery of a scene. You’ll have the best luck capturing fog and mist early in the morning before the sun is fully up and the day becomes clearer.
Use a Circular Polarizer
A circular polarizing filter is like sunglasses for your DSLR or mirrorless camera lens. On a bright sunny day, a circular polarizer makes colors appear more vivid and darkens blue skies and water surfaces to retain their true colors. When your goal is to photograph rich fall colors, you don’t want to compromise their color, due to your current shooting conditions. A circular polarizer will make a big difference.
Avoid Large Expanses of White Sky
When you’re shooting on both bright sunny days and overcast days, the sky often appears white in photos. A washed-out sky is okay for certain types of photos but not ideal for fall photos. If you choose to include white sky in an autumn scene, make sure it fits the composition. A narrow strip or a large stretch of white sky against beautiful fall trees will be distracting. Correct your exposure, so the sky photographs blue or arrange the composition to leave out the sky.
Experiment With Different Techniques
Autumn presents numerous opportunities for creative photography. When you’re in a location with water, go for the reflection photo. Even a small puddle can create a beautiful reflection. On a brilliantly sunny day or at golden hour, play around with backlighting. Position yourself so your light source is behind your subject. You’ll be able to create genuine sun flare or creamy bokeh. Try shooting fall subjects from different perspectives as well. Getting down on the ground or shooting directly overhead will create a very different composition than what you will create shooting straight on or at eye level.
Capture Color Combinations
One of the most fun aspects of photographing fall colors is pairing different colors in your compositions. With leaves in vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows, there are lots of fun possibilities for color combinations. Consider contrasting turning leaves against leaves that are still bright green or against the brilliant blue sky. Over time, you’ll find color combinations you really like and will start to seek them out naturally during fall photo shoots.
Take a few Macro Shots
Many photographers approach a stunning fall scene, thinking about how they can best capture the entire view at once. While it’s great taking wide-angle shots of beautiful views, you can create compositions that are just as interesting, if not more so, when you focus on the smaller details. When you’re photographing fall colors, isolate a single leaf against a clear blue sky or textured wooden deck for a completely different perspective.
Track the Peak Colors in Your Area
Many state tourism websites post peak fall color information online. There are also apps for keeping tabs on the best times and places for autumn colors. Doing a little research will help you plan ahead, so you’re able to get out and shoot during the height of the season. If the time frame doesn’t work well or there aren’t going to be a lot of good colors where you live, consider going further afield. Plan a weekend or even week-long excursion to New England, the Colorado Rockies, or an upper region of Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Michigan.
Do you have any additional tips for photographing fall colors?
Share your best tips for making the most of the autumn season with your photography!
Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.