Fall foliage is one of the most beautiful things to photograph. It’s many people’s favorite season for a reason — the cool, crisp weather, the pumpkin spiced-everything, and most spectacularly, the color change featuring trees that turn from summer green to brilliant shades of orange, red and yellow.
Because of the dramatic colors, fall leaves can be tricky to shoot great photos of. If you’re looking to take some photos to make your fall memories more tangible, here are some quick tips.
1. Aim for Sunrise & Sunset
This tip remains true for any and all kinds of photography, as sunrise and sunset provide a wonderful kind of natural light. That being said, shooting fall foliage at these times will ensure that the leaves are better lit and the color displays more vividly than it would if the sun were straight overhead in the middle of the day causing harsh shadows.
Additional tip: If the sky is overcast, do not put your camera away! Clouds can create a natural softbox in the sky that works to soften the tones in photos and eliminate shadows for a beautiful, clean image. I personally love shooting when the sky is overcast.
2. Look for Contrast
This one is kind of a given, but hear me out. It’s easy to find the spots of orange and red leaves in a cluster of trees, but framing your shot so that you have both colors in one image rather than one image of red and one image of orange can really bring more power to it. Don’t hesitate to look down, either — fallen autumn leaves on green grass or gray rocks can create a strong juxtaposition of tones as well. If you live or are traveling where it’s cold enough to find snow, that can create some amazing contrast as well.
3. If There’s Water, Shoot the Reflection
I live in Florida where there’s plenty of water, but unfortunately, no autumn color change. I wasn’t so lucky to find a lake during my trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains, though not for a lack of trying.
Fall foliage can look absolutely mesmerizing when mirrored in a body of water. If you have a tripod, set it up and shoot your image with a longer exposure to really allow those colors to seep in. You’ll get double the color and a photo you can be really proud of.
4. Use a Polarizer Filter
Shooting with a polarizer filter can be tricky, but it doesn’t take long to get used to. I used a polarizer for my first time photographing fall foliage on the Blue Ridge Mountains, and although it did take me a couple of tries and photos I deleted out of frustration from not getting them “right,” I’m glad I brought it along. The polarizer will darken your exposures and bring out the natural saturation and contrast. For the photos I shot on the Blue Ridge Parkway, my polarizer filter really brought out the blue in the clear sky and the color in the leaves for the most vivid photo possible that was still true to what I was seeing with my eyes.
If you don’t have a polarizer or don’t have a DSLR that can fit a lens filter, no worries. Underexpose your image while shooting it and then upload your image into any post-processing software to heighten the contrast and saturation — not too much, though — to bring out those naturally bright hues.
Now that you have the know-how to take great photos before the leaves fall off the trees and winter takes over, why not print them as a Fracture?