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fall-foliage-photography-tips-3 Tips & Tricks

5 Quick Tips For Photographing Fall Foliage

By Michelle Bird on September 23rd 2014

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Photo: Luz Adriana Villa

That cozy time of the year is right around the corner, hot drinks, trees reaching a peak of bright colors, baked goods, fireplaces keeping you warm, everyone bundled up in their favorite sweater…honestly, I can keep going about fall.  It’s definitely my favorite season. Not just mine, but many photographers travel across the states to photograph the best fall foliage, places where the reds, orange and yellows are in full force.

Here are some suggestions for capturing the magic of fall!

1. Timing

Believe it or not, as I mentioned earlier, fall is literally around the corner. Meaning, you need to grab your camera and be aware of when leaves are turning to their brightest, either in your area, or wherever you plan on traveling to. The peak of turning foliage will be different across the states. Check the forecast for foliage in your town. Every year, it’s slightly different depending on the temperature and moisture in the air. There are sections of New England where the leaves are already turning, while the West coast is still feeling the end of summer.

2. It’s Not All About The Leaves

In a sense it is, but it isn’t. You do want to photograph the color of fall foliage, but think of all the millions of pictures of leaves out there or single tree shots with bright colors. Think outside the box, think about the essence of fall and adding something extra to your shot. Go into the woods and photograph fog, mushrooms, moss, rivers, winding roads, also the town where you live as it prepares for the season, people sipping on hot drinks, kids playing in piles of leaves, etc.

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Photo: Chris Ford

3. Lighting

Catch the golden light on early mornings or late afternoons, while making sure the sun is always at your back. The time of day will make an immense difference on the colors, as the golden light will enhance the overall warmth of the shot. Fall colors are already bright, so shooting in mid-day sun will increase the brightness and contrast, and prove to be too heavy.

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Photo: Sathish J

4. Embrace Color Contrast

Showcase the wide-range of fall colors by finding a nice contrast, whether it be bright yellow leaves and blue skies, deep reds and dark browns, piles of leaves with a variety of colors, etc.

5. Adjust Camera Settings

Don’t be afraid to change a few settings around to achieve the ultimate shot, that is if you’re not shooting RAW. For example, switching your white balance from “auto” to “cloudy” will give your shots more warmth. Increase the saturation to make fall colors pop a bit more. Underexpose just slightly to deepen the overall tones.

So, grab that pumpkin spice latte and your gear, go out there and enjoy!

Do you have any fall photography tips to share? Leave them in the comments section below.

Michelle Bird is a Southern California based freelance photographer and writer, with a strong focus on music, editorial and portrait photography. She is the founder and creative force behind the music+culture online blog Black Vinyl Magazine, and can often be found in the photo-pit shooting the latest concerts in town. She has a strong passion for art, exploring, vintage finds and most of all animals. Connect with her through Email,
Instagram , or Facebook

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    awesome pics

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  2. Derek Grant

    Superb tips, cant wait to try some of these out tomorrow. Specifically want to try that leaf with the water droplet, love the lighting and a project to try and create an image like this is a great idea for tomorrow !.

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  3. Peter Nord

    Cloudy or even shady white balance with warmer trim. Polarizing filters when the sun angle is right. And the golden hour really is golden. Never hurts to have some nice people.

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  4. Robert Lüthje

    Great tips! Really appreciate it! Thanks for sharing this interesting article with us!

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  5. Dre Rolle

    Going out this weekend and will try to put these tips to good use.

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  6. Brandon Dewey

    Great tips. I also use a CP to help take the sheen off the leaves which helps being out a richer color.

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