Four Tips for Photographing Fall Foliage

Written by:

In keeping with this month’s Photo Challenge, here are four tips for photographing fall foliage.

One – The best time of day to photograph autumn leaves is early morning. The quality of morning sunlight works to bring out the rich and intense colors of the foliage. You can also take advantage of any overnight or early-morning dew or rain that will also serve to enhance the colors. With that said, don’t neglect the forest just because it’s overcast or damp. The muted quality of the light provides for added drama, and duller colors can be boosted in post-processing.

Two – If you’re walking in the woods, you may find the lighting in a forest to be somewhat tricky. Early morning or late afternoon light will come through the trees diffused at an angle, providing interesting highlights and depth to the photograph. Follow the light – experiment with putting the sun at your back, or at your front. Try shooting the light through the leaves. Walk around the tree – look up, look down, observe a wide view, narrow your view to specific leaves. Note how the quality of light changes. For particularly dense forests, you may find the dim lighting to be problematic for a clear photograph, so bring a tripod along to help steady things.

Three – Get a lot of different perspectives. With the plethora of foliage photographs out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with similar-looking shots. Shoot wide, and shoot narrow. Go for photographs encompassing entire groves of trees, but also shoot single leaves. Get up high to photograph sweeping vistas, and also get down on your belly on the forest floor. Look for reflective surfaces such as streams, lakes or ponds that capture the forest’s color. Put your own unique interpretation on the rediscovery of fall foliage.

Four – Use daylight fill-in flash. The use of flash in the daylight can help fill in strong shadows when you’re trying to bring a specific subject into relief in front of a darker background. Use the plus or minus flash exposure compensation to adjust the output level appropriately for the surroundings. Try starting at -1 1/3, take a test shot, and if the photo still looks to over-flashed, continue to reduce the flash output by 1/3 increments until you achieve the results you desire. Conversely, if -1 1/3 isn’t bright enough, increase the flash output by 1/3 increments until you’re happy with the results. Here’s a couple of post-processing tips for you – the fill light can also be increased in Camera Raw from the Basics tab; or you can play with the lighting effects in Photoshop by going to “Filter”, “Render”, then “Lighting Effects”.

Do you have additional tips for photographing fall foliage? Please feel free to share them in the comments!

Photo credits (in order of appearance):
- “Falling with grace” by Memotions on Flickr Creative Commons.
- “My Fall Favorites” by Emzee on Flickr Creative Commons.

Previous Post:

  • John

    Five-Use a higher speed shutter. Leaves tend to move a lot with even a puff of wind.rnrnSix-Take lots of shots with different settings. Memory cards are cheap.

  • William Supko

    Six – Post editing – Make sure you have the white balance set/corrected properly and add a little extra saturation to make the leaves pop.

  • Duane Stevens

    Now I just need my foliage predictor “app.” Destination in Eastern Sierras has probably peaked by now, and I won’t be there for a couple weeks. DOH!

  • Brian

    Very good tips, I hope to try some out soon

  • Falakmobashwera

    I just wanted to add a comment here to mention thanks for you very nice ideas. Blogs are troublesome to run and time consuming so I appreciate when I see well written material. Your time isn’t going to waste with your posts. Thanks so much and persevere No doubt you will definitely reach your goals! I’ll be back soon!nEpson RIP

  • John

    A polarizing filter helps intensify Fall colors.

  • Pingback: Cinco consejos para hacer fotos a las hojas en Otoño