Expert Tips for Spectacular Fall Foliage Photography

Expert Tips for Spectacular Fall Foliage Photography

Fall photography is all about color — red, yellow, and orange leaves, blue skies, and evergreen trees. As temperatures cool down, the warm hues of the countryside attract photographers and visitors from all over with stunning picturesque landscapes.

Although the leaf-peeping season is brief, you’ll discover tons of gorgeous scenery, such as the leaves changing from green to gold and the ground becoming blanketed with colorful fallen leaves. The autumn landscape makes the perfect background for seasonal portraits and festive family candids. Grab your camera gear and use these tips to capture some breathtaking views.

Choose your location

Expert Tips for Spectacular Fall Foliage Photography

When you live in a region surrounded by colorful trees, you don’t need to go any farther than your own backyard for fantastic fall photos. If you’re planning a fall foliage trip, you’ll need to be aware of peak viewing times for the area you’re visiting. Weather plays a major role in the timing and intensity of autumn colors in any given year, so regularly check the foliage forecast in the area and consult with local residents for the best routes and times to plan your drive in the country.

Timing is everything

Expert Tips for Spectacular Fall Foliage Photography day time Expert Tips for Spectacular Fall Foliage Photography night time

The timing of autumn colors can impact what and where you choose to shoot. The peak of fall color is short-lived, so be prepared to head out before chilly autumn storms knock the leaves to the ground. There are plenty of great photo ops to be found before the colors peak, with patches of ambers and reds bursting out among the mostly green leaves. The post-peak season also offers attractive scenery, with yellow leaves covering the forest floor and riverbeds.

Time of day can have a drastic impact on the vibrancy of autumn colors, depending on the direction of light and the brightness of the day. With the Time-lapse movie mode on the EOS Rebel SL2 camera, you can capture the dramatic changes in a fixed location over the course of several hours or the whole day.

Make the most of available lighting

Make the most of Photography lighting

Outdoor photography presents a challenge in any season, with shifting clouds and unpredictable weather conditions sometimes hampering an extraordinary scene. In autumn, the midday sun and brilliant blue skies make red and orange hues pop, creating dazzling fall landscapes. If you’re looking to capture hillside vistas at scenic overlooks, plan for overcast days with white skies for stellar images. You can still get lots of magical fall photos on cloudy days — just reduce the amount of sky that’s visible in your composition.

Sunny days crank up the brightness and contrast, casting lots of deep shadows in wooded areas. If you’re taking photographs within a park or forest, use the shadows and backlit leaves for dramatic effect in your images. Remember to activate your camera’s flash when taking portraits or still-life photos to keep your subject adequately lit by filling in deep shadows.

When photographing outdoor scenes with a combination of warm and cool colors, try using a polarizing filter on your lens. A polarizing lens filter such as the 67mm Circular Polarizer PL-CB can reduce reflections from water, darken skies, and enhance cloud contrast, all of which will balance colors and make the whole scene more vivid. They are best used at right angles to the sun but also play a major role in reducing reflections on cloudy days — ultimately increasing the color saturation in your image. Simply turn the filter until you see what you like, and snap away!

Experiment with framing

Framing tips

Using a versatile multi-focal lens such as the EF-S 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS standard zoom lens , you’ll be free to play around with cropping and perspective. The longer focal length lets you zoom in on specific details within a landscape scene, like a cluster of birch trees or a single golden leaf on an old tree stump. Get low and shoot a path or roadway in wider angle to exaggerate the perspective. The Vari-angle LCD screen on the EOS Rebel SL2 or EOS 6D Mark II camera lets you adjust settings and capture images using Live View when you find unique but physically awkward positions to snap from.

Isolate your subject

Isolation camera tips

Great photographs need a compelling subject. By choosing a focal point — a branch full of glowing red maple leaves or yellow leaves on a weathered picnic table — you’ll boost the visual interest in your images. Use Av (Aperture-priority) mode on your camera or select a wider aperture, around f/2.8 or f/5.6, to isolate your subject from its surroundings. The wider aperture will soften or compress the background so that your still-life subject stands out.

Slow it down

Slow it down

Great photographs need a compelling subject. By choosing a focal point — a branch full of glowing red maple leaves or yellow leaves on a weathered picnic table — you’ll boost the visual interest in your images. Use Av (Aperture-priority) mode on your camera or select a wider aperture, around f/2.8 or f/5.6, to isolate your subject from its surroundings. The wider aperture will soften or compress the background so that your still-life subject stands out.

Get some action

Get some action

Autumn is full of fun events and activities that need to be captured. Halloween, Thanksgiving, apple picking, pumpkin carving, and even raking leaves can become a photo op when the foliage colors change. Capture the excitement of kids frolicking in piles of crunchy leaves in the yard or running around in a corn maze at the local fall festival. Use a fast shutter speed or Sports mode to freeze the falling leaves in mid-air.

Before you know it, the fall colors will turn to brown and the ground will be covered in snow. Don’t miss your chance to capture the bright hues and preserve these spectacular displays of nature.