Quick Tips for Photographing Autumn Foliage

Everyone is inspired by the colors of fall foliage, and often people bring their camera along for a car trip, while out on errands, and even while taking a stroll just to document this glorious season. The problem for many is that once the shutter is clicked and the images are being reviewed they find that the results are not desirable. This has to do with many different things including the weather, existing light, and even such things as the camera’s settings at the time.

There are many great ways to capture the glory of autumn foliage with a digital camera and it helps to understand how to record individual leaves, single trees, and entire landscapes in the best manner possible.


Autumn Foliage Photography
Photo by Shad Arington

It all begins with that incredible color and many photographers understand that the existing light has a strong effect on how the camera records the color. For instance, the “sweet light” hours of dawn and dusk can really help to improve the way the camera records autumn foliage. This is because it allows the golden yellows, oranges, and reds to be accentuated by the softer and warmer tones of the natural light during such times of day. Some photographers also head out on gloomy and overcast fall days because these too are times when the saturation and color levels can really “pop”.


Autumn Foliage Photography
Photo by Stephen Migol

If, however, the photographer is stuck working on a brilliant and cloudless day they can simply opt to use a polarizing filter to reduce any shininess on the surface of the leaves and to also allow the colors to be far more saturated and contrasted.

Regardless of whether the photographer is taking images of single leaves or entire forests, it also helps if they look for contrast to really pull out the powerful fall colors too. For example, a grove of birch trees with their gorgeous yellow leaves can be contrasted beautifully against a bright blue sky. The photographer must make sure that the sun is at their back in order to gain the best effects for such an image.


Autumn Foliage Photography
Photo by Grant MacDonald

Alternately, the photographer could point their camera to the ground for contrast too. The autumn leaves will all head downward, and a bold red leaf against a pile of yellow ones, or standing alone in the green grass can make for an impressive image.

Lastly, one good trick used by many photographers is to slightly underexpose their autumn photographs in order to give the colors another level of saturation.

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