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Tips for Shooting Fall Foliage and Autumn Scenes

Fall is one of the most photogenic seasons, but can also be the most frustrating to shoot: the weather can be unpredictable¬†and the intensity of the colors can be difficult to capture.¬†If you don’t live in an area that lends itself to beautiful landscapes, you might end up feeling the odds are against you for getting a perfect fall shot.

Cry no more, friends. You don’t need to live in Vermont to get great fall shots, and if you do, my tips can help you, too.

Remember the Basics

Before we get fall specific, let’s be sure we follow the basics. If you’re taking a landscape shot be sure that your photo is well composed and has depth.

If you’re still uncomfortable or unfamiliar with those concepts you can find detailed information on composition in chapter 3 of Tony’s book, Stunning Digital Photography.

Be One with The Light

Having great light can make your picture. Go out during the golden hour, right before sunset or at sunrise, to get warm flattering lighting. Flat light will dull the colors of the leaves and leave you with a photo that doesn’t look as intensely colorful as what you experienced in person. Trying to fix the dulling effect in post but adding vibrancy or increasing your saturation won’t look as natural as capturing the colors in camera. You can, however, use those post processing techniques to improve your photo.

Another way to enhance your color and contrast is to use a polarizing filter. Polarizing filters reduce glare, bring out clue skies, and intensify colors, not unlike a pair of polarized sunglasses!

Taken Before the Golden Hour
Taken During the Golden Hour

Grey Skies and Rain Are You Friends

One of my favorite things is a grey sky on a colorful fall day. The fall foliage looks especially vibrant and dramatic when it’s up against the rich grey skies a dreary day can bring.
The same goes for post-rain photos. Wet bark will darken, adding contrast to your photos. Wet roads and paths become reflective and rich in color.

Colorful Leaves Against a Grey Sky

The photo above was taken in a forest where there wasn’t much opportunity for a great landscape. Instead, I isolated leaves and used to the greay sky and backlighting to make the colors look more intense.

Which brings me to my next section…

“I Don’t Have Beautiful Landscapes Near Me, Lady!”

I hear ya. I live on the coast, which is mostly flat and boaty but still charming in its own way. Still, there are ways to get good fall photos without taking a vacation north!

Focus on the seasonal details. Pumpkins and pies are for sale, apples are inescapable, and corn mazes are dangerous and should be feared and respected. Capture the spirit of fall by getting pictures of the fall traditions in your area.

This is also a great option if you have a good location, but no great weather or light.¬†If you don’t have the opportunity to wait for nice light, work with what you have by experimenting with taking photos of the smaller details around you.

Pumpkins at a Farm Stand
autum mushroom
A Mushroom on the Forest Floor
That clock I never noticed until I went looking for fall pictures.
That clock I never noticed until I went looking for fall pictures.