The fall is a great time to get out the camera (or smartphone) and head outdoors. Here’s a few tips on making the most of the fall colours.
Most people think that a nice bright sunny day is the best for photographing fall colours. But that’s not necessarily the case. Sunny days are great early in the morning or late in the day, but for striking fall colours, overcast skies are best for landscapes. The lighting is more even and you can shoot all day without having to cope with dark shadows and intense highlights.
General camera settings
If you are using a camera that lets you take some control then you have some options.
White Balance: Auto is NOT a great setting for fall leaves. It’s best to use either Daylight or Cloudy. If you are shooting in the early morning or late afternoon set to Daylight. Using the Cloudy setting will add a bit of warmth to the colours, intensifying the yellows, reds and oranges.
Depth of Field: When shooting full landscapes you want to have as much of the foreground and background in focus as possible so set your aperture to f11 or f16. See example #3. If you camera has presets – use the landscape preset. The drawback of using small apertures is slow shutter speeds. Using a tripod is always best when shooting landscapes. The support means your camera will be steady with no blurring due to camera shake.
If there is a breeze, you will need to increase the shutter speed to avoid wind blur. Do this by increasing the ISO setting on your camera. Every time you double the ISO (say from 100 to 200) you speed up the shutter too (say from 1/60th to 1/125th of a second)
Closeups are often better with shallow depth of field. This throws the background out of focus and isolates the main subject. If your camera has presets, choose the sports setting this uses faster shutter speeds which force the camera to open the lens wide and narrow the depth of field. See Example #2
Under Expose: Under exposing will intensify colours, making them richer and deeper. The easiest way to do this is to find the magic +/- button on your camera. Set it to -0.5 or even -1. Don’t forget to return it to “0” when you are finished. Here’s a blog I wrote about this from our archives
Placing the leaves between you and the sun will intensify and make the colours “glow from within”. Also look for contrasting colours. In this example, yellow and blue are complimentary colours that work well together.
2. Get close
A simple, minimalist composition can be just as evocative of the season as a complex scene. Try getting close to a single leaf and using a wide aperture, like f/2.8 or f/4 to achieve a shallow depth of field that isolates fine details.
3. Look for Reflections
Early morning is one of the best times to get stunning reflections in still water. Including something in the foreground adds perspective and a sense of “space” to the image.